The Bills will be matching the Bears’ offer sheet on restricted free agent offensive lineman Ryan Bates, meaning that he will not be joining Chicago’s roster. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported on Monday that the contract will be a four-year deal.
Bates, 25, has played predominantly in a reserve role for Buffalo over the last three seasons. Though he has been active for 41 games in that span, he has only made 4 NFL starts, all of which coming in 2021. While his resume as a starter in the pros is limited, the upside he has displayed in a limited role made him one of the more intriguing restricted free agents in recent memory.
After a collegiate career at Penn State which saw him named a third-team All-Big Ten lineman twice, Bates signed with the Eagles as an undrafted free agent in 2019. The Bills made the decision to trade for him after just one preseason game with Philadelphia, and Bates has spent the last three years as a key reserve for Buffalo’s offensive line.
He projected to fill in as the Bears’ new starting right guard, but Bates will be staying in Buffalo. The interior offensive line features two set starters left guard Cody Whitehair and center Lucas Patrick, the latter of whom having been signed this offseason. Teven Jenkins and Larry Borom project to man the two offensive tackle positions, though it remains unclear what the exact plans for each player is at this stage.
Regardless of whether they’ll prioritize tackle or guard, it wouldn’t at all be surprising if the Bears targeted an offensive lineman early in the 2022 NFL Draft. The free agency market isn’t without talent, but the chances of finding a long-term fit with the youth and upside of Bates appear to be slim.