Buffalo Bills agree to trade OL Ryan Bates to Chicago Bears for fifth-round draft pick


Staff member

Ryan Bates wanted the chance to be a regular starter in the NFL.

He’ll get that now, only it won’t be with the Buffalo Bills. Bates was traded Monday night by the Bills to the Chicago Bears in exchange for a fifth-round pick in next month’s NFL draft. The trade, which is pending a physical, won’t become official until the start of the NFL’s new league year March 13.

The trade provides a modest savings on the salary cap for the Bills. According to sports financial website Spotrac, Bates will count $4.006 million against the Bills’ 2024 salary cap in “dead money” – that is, money Bates has already been paid, but not yet accounted for on the team’s salary cap. He was scheduled to have a cap hit of $5.439 million in 2024, so the trade will save the Bills $1.433 million in cap space – money that will be mostly eaten up by replacing Bates on the 53-man roster.

In an interesting twist, the contract the Bears will inherit is the one they actually signed Bates to back in 2022 as a restricted free agent before the Bills retained him by matching it. Bates is signed through the 2025 season. He will have cap hits of $4 million in each of the next two seasons, made up of a $3.4 million base salary, $500,000 roster bonus and $100,000 workout bonus in each of the next two years.

Bates served as the Bills’ primary interior offensive line backup, but also can play tackle. In a way, that may have hurt him in Buffalo, because the team liked his ability to come off the bench and step into any spot on the offensive line. The Bears’ starting center last season, Lucas Patrick, is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent next week, so Bates seemingly will get the opportunity to win that job in Chicago.

“I tried to treat the season like any other,” Bates told The Buffalo News the day after the 2023 season ended with a loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in the divisional round of the AFC playoffs. “I prepared like a starter, acted like I was going to be starting in the game, watched film like I was a starter. I didn’t get the opportunity to be on the field as much as I hoped, but I’m looking forward to (the 2024 season) and hopefully becoming a starter.”

Bates played five seasons in Buffalo, appearing in 73 games, with 19 starts. The Bills stayed exceptionally healthy along the offensive line last season, with the group of left tackle Dion Dawkins, left guard Connor McGovern, center Mitch Morse, right guard O’Cyrus Torrence and right tackle Spencer Brown starting all 19 games, including the postseason. Torrence and Bates competed in training camp for the right guard job, with the rookie eventually winning that competition.

“I know the kind of guy I am and I know how I handle my business,” Bates told The News. “I tried to help Mitch and (Torrence) as much as I could in getting ready as a rookie and helping Mitch prepare at center. They both did a fantastic job this year.”

Bates ended up playing just 35 offensive snaps for the Bills in 2023 because the starters stayed so healthy. That made him an expensive depth player. Obviously, there is no guarantee the offensive line will stay as healthy as it did in 2024, which makes trading Bates a bit of a risk because of the quality depth he provided. The Bills do another offensive lineman, Alec Anderson, who like Bates has the versatility to play multiple positions up front. It stands to reason he’ll get he first opportunity to step into Bates’ role.

The move would also seem to indicate that Morse is in the Bills’ plans for at least the 2024 season, which is the last on his contract. The Bills could extend Morse’s deal in an effort to save cap space, as he’s scheduled to count $11.5 million in 2024.

Buffalo now has 10 picks in the 2024 draft, and is expected to add a third-round compensatory selection when those are announced for the loss of linebacker Tremaine Edmunds last season to the Bears.