Ryan Bates

Why Bears view Ryan Bates as vital, under-the-radar part of quarterback development plan

The Bears are doing everything they can to surround their next quarterback with the tools to succeed

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ORLANDO -- It's no secret that Bears general manager Ryan Poles has long wanted to acquire offensive lineman Ryan Bates.

Poles signed Bates to an offer sheet during his first offseason as general manager in Chicago, but the Buffalo Bills matched it and kept Bates.

Fast forward almost two years and Poles finally got his guy when he traded a 2024 fifth-round pick to the Bills for Bates.

Bates has played at both guard spots and center during his NFL career. As the Bears prepare to draft and develop a rookie quarterback, presumably Caleb Williams, at No. 1 overall, they viewed the acquisition of Bates as a vital piece of their long-term quarterback plan.

"Very important for a young quarterback to have that center experience," head coach Matt Eberflus said of Bates at the annual NFL league meetings on Tuesday. "To be able to call and make adjustments to the protections, to help and assist that way. We thought it was critical to get that piece, and Ryan (Bates) fits that bill, and we’re excited to have him. He’s been a pro a long time, and he’s moved along the line inside there at guard and center, so it’s good to have the position flex(ibility) as well. But yeah, that’s a critical piece, for sure."

The Bears also added center Coleman Shelton in free agency. Shelton and Bates will compete for the starting center position in camp, but Bates will enter camp with a leg up.

After two years of instability on the interior of the offensive line, Poles feels the line is in a good place as they prepare for a rookie quarterback to enter the fray.

"With Bates coming in I feel like we’ve created some depth there, and versatility," Poles said Monday in Orlando. "It’s something that’s really bothered me for a long time, just in terms of the lack of flexibility we’ve had in the past, it stresses you out from week to week. I feel like we have more versatility now, and competition."

The Bears finally cleared the way for Williams to land last Saturday when they traded quarterback Justin Fields to the Pittsburgh Steelers for a conditional 2025 sixth-round pick.

While Poles will continue to do his due diligence before the 2024 NFL Draft, all signs point to Williams being the selection at No. 1.

The USC star and 2022 Heisman Trophy winner has checked all the Bears' boxes during the pre-draft process and will enter arguably the best situation a No. 1 overall pick has ever had in the modern era.

Wide receivers DJ Moore and Keenan Allen are the headliners of the Bears' plan to support Williams during his rookie season, but Bates will play a critical role as the Bears look to give Williams everything he needs to have a smooth takeoff in the NFL.

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