Buffalo Bills restricted free-agent offensive lineman Ryan Bates plans to sign an offer sheet with the Bears, according to multiple reports.
As a restricted free agent, Bates can field contract offers from other teams, but the Bills have the option to match any offer from another team. They now have five days to match the Bears’ offer. Bates, 25, also reportedly visited with the Vikings and Patriots.
Bates’ NFL career began in 2019 after going undrafted out of Penn State. He signed with the Philadelphia Eagles after the draft but was traded to Buffalo in August of that year.
In three years with Buffalo, Bates appeared in 41 regular-season games, making four starts. He played in all 16 games in 2020 and all 17 games in 2021.
For most of that time, he was primarily a special teams lineman. But late last season, injuries on the Bills’ offensive line gave him a chance to start. He started the final three regular-season games, playing both right and left guard for the Bills. Then he started both the Bills’ playoff games at left guard.
The Bears are still in need of a starting right guard. Former right guard James Daniels left via free agency, signing a contract with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Bears signed interior lineman Lucas Patrick away from the Green Bay Packers, but Patrick said last week that he plans to play center, although he has experience at guard too. If that is the case, the team still has a hole at right guard.
Bates could fill that hole. He showed at the end of last season that he can start in the NFL. Doing so in two playoff games is no joke, especially for the high-powered Bills offense. That said, his starting experience is quite limited.
The Bears also signed former Vikings offensive lineman Dakota Dozier on Thursday. Dozier also has starting experience at guard but might be better suited for a backup role.