The Buffalo Bills retained a piece of their starting offensive line from late last season. On Monday, GM Brandon Beane announced that the club would match the offer sheet signed by restricted free agent Ryan Bates with the Chicago Bears last week.
"We kind of pondered that, worked through it," said GM Brandon Beane. "We were tight on the cap, but we decided to bring Ryan back. It's really important for us to be strong up front. Ryan's a versatile player. He can actually play all five spots. But most importantly he's been a center-guard when he's filled in and we thought when he had his opportunity this year he did a heck of a job starting the last four regular season and then the two postseason games. It didn't seem too big for him."
Bates signed a four-year contract with Buffalo.
Bates' center-guard versatility will be even more important in 2022 as he'll not only compete for starting guard role, but will also presumably serve at Mitch Morse's backup at center with Jon Feliciano no longer on the roster.
Buffalo tendered a qualifying offer to Bates as he was a restricted free agent. By doing so, the Bills retained the right to match any offer sheet that Bates might sign with another NFL club. Less than a week later, the Bears signed Bates to a four-year offer sheet giving the Bills five days to match the offer.
The Bills chose to match thereby retaining Bates' services for the foreseeable future. Bates, a former undrafted signing of the Philadelphia Eagles, was acquired by the Bills via trade in 2019 for DE Eli Harold.
Largely filling a reserve role his first two seasons with the Bills, Bates was thrust into the starting lineup late in the 2021 campaign when injuries and COVID-19 struck the offensive line. He would go on to start the team's final four regular season games where he manned both guard positions.
Bates would also start at left guard in each of Buffalo's two postseason games this past winter. He figures to be in line to compete for one of the team's starting guard positions in training camp this summer.