The Bears are one step closer to adding another new player to their offensive line group. According to multiple reports, Ryan Bates is set to sign an offer sheet from the Bears. But since Bates is a restricted free agent, that doesn’t mean he’s all clear to come to Halas Hall if he signs the Bears’ offer sheet.
A restricted free agent is any player who has three accrued years of NFL experience, with an expired contract. RFAs are free to negotiate with any team, but their previous team can tender them contracts at various levels. The highest-paying tenders can give first-round draft pick compensation to the RFAs previous team, if they decide not to match an offer sheet the RFA has signed with another team. In Bates’ case, the Bills reportedly gave him a “right of first refusal” tender, meaning the Bills have five days to match the Bears’ offer sheet. If they do, Bates remains in Buffalo. If they don’t, he’s clear to come to Chicago.
According to OverTheCap, the Bills are already $25,000 over the 2022 salary cap threshold, so if the Bears really want Bates, they could’ve offered him a front-loaded offer sheet to make it difficult for the Bills to match.
Bates initially joined the league as an undrafted free agent with the Eagles in 2019, but a few months after signing with Philadelphia he was traded to Buffalo. He appeared in eight games as a rookie, but played in all 16 games for the Bills in 2020, and all 17 in 2021. Bates made his first career start in Week 4 as an extra eligible tackle, but then started at right guard in Week 16, before finishing as the team’s starting left guard from Week 17 through the postseason.
Whether or not the Bears land Bates, Poles has shown he’s not done adding to the Bears OL unit. The team has already signed Lucas Patrick and Dakota Dozier, and opted to let James Daniels leave in free agency. Last week, Patrick revealed he believes the Bears want him to play center, not guard, so the team still needs to find Daniels’ replacement at right guard. It’s still unclear whether Poles wants to move forward with Teven Jenkins and Larry Borom at the tackle positions, too.