5 free agents Panthers don’t want to see join NFC South rivals in 2023

(Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports) Jessie Bates III
(Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports) Jessie Bates III /
4 of 5
Carolina Panthers
(Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports) Jessie Bates III /

Carolina Panthers don’t want to see Jessie Bates III

Jessie Bates III is one of the bright young stars in the NFL, leading the Cincinnati Bengals’ defense for their past two playoff runs. After the organization did not place the franchise tag on him, whoever gets his services will acquire a star safety that can largely impact the outcome of any game.

He has 14 interceptions in his five-year career and was a second-team All-Pro in 2020. At 26 years old, Bates will be a core piece on a team’s defense long-term and all three of the Carolina Panthers’ division rivals could use him on their team.

The former Wake Forest standout is a player that can slow down a team’s rushing offense and passing game with his well-rounded ability and experience. Despite trading up to No. 1 overall in the 2023 NFL Draft, the Panthers need to be wary about throwing over the middle if Bates is lurking.

Bates is one of the marquee defensive free agents this year. The Panthers do not want him on any of their division rivals’ defenses, especially considering the NFC South could be within their grasp if Frank Reich and Scott Fitterer find the right pieces to put around their new rookie signal-caller – whoever that may be.

Carolina could take a swing at Bates themselves, but the cost is likely too great despite having $22.71 million in available cap space currently.