Though the value of the offer sheet that the Bears presented offensive lineman Ryan Bates has yet to be revealed, a source indicated to the Associated Press that his acquisition by Chicago seems likely. The Bills are still ever-so-slightly over the salary cap (about $24,000) so a strong offer by the Bears would be difficult to match. GM Ryan Poles still has about $17 million of cap space to play with after signing backup quarterback Trevor Siemian. If he can somehow trade Nick Foles, the executive would increase that bounty by about $8 million with $2.67 million in dead money attached.
Bates signed his offer sheet on March 24, meaning Buffalo has until Tuesday to match it or let the offensive lineman go to the Bears. According to John Wawrow of AP, the Bills may have no choice but to let Bates leave.
“The Buffalo Bills stand to lose Bates after the offensive lineman agreed to sign an offer sheet to play for the Chicago Bears, a person with direct knowledge of the decision confirmed to The Associated Press on Thursday,” wrote Wawrow. “The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because the discussions are private. The Chicago Tribune first reported the move earlier in the day.”
Acquiring the guard would be considered somewhat of a coup by Poles because the Vikings and Patriots were equally interested. Chicago probably offers Bates the best opportunity to be a starter due to their vacancy at guard. Pending the acquisition, Willie Wright, who signed a futures deal last month, is lightly penciled in as Chicago’s starter. Bates, a third-year offensive lineman is a Penn State graduate who went undrafted in 2019 and was acquired by the Bills for defensive end Eli Harold in August of that year. Noted for his versatility, Bates appeared in 41 games, including four starts last season.
Chicago’s assistant general manager Ian Cunningham was with the Eagles when Bates signed as an undrafted free agent. Because the Bills original round tendered the 25-year-old to restricted free agency, Bates’ UFA status means the Bears will not have to compensate Buffalo if their front office decides not to match Chicago’s offer.
The 6-foot-4, 302-pound Bates spent the past three seasons as a backup with the Bills. Because of injuries along Buffalo’s offensive line, he started the final three games of the 2021 regular season and also started both of the team’s postseason tilts. Including the playoffs, Bates played 223 total snaps between left and right guard. He has never allowed a sack as a professional, and also has some experience as a center.
For the season, Bates had a 93% pass block win rate at guard, which hovers around league average, and a 59% run block win rate, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.
If the Bills let Bates go, the Bears’ offensive line takes on a new dynamic. Teven Jenkins and Larry Borom would be the starting tackles, with newly-acquired Lucas Patrick at center flanked by Bates and Cody Whitehair at guard. Acquiring Bates would also mean Poles can wait until the later rounds of the draft to select an offensive lineman. That means Chicago might focus on bigger areas of need, such as defensive backfield and wide receiver. Poles could also trade down to acquire more picks this year, or trade Foles to pick up an extra asset or two.