Bears could help Patriots by poaching key Bills’ offensive lineman

The Buffalo Bills are experiencing a bit of roster turnover this offseason and New England Patriots fans will have to wait and see if this affects their ability to continue on their promising trajectory. Though new faces could inject energy, watching others leave has the exact opposite effect.

So far, the Bills have brought in Von Miller, OJ Howard, Jamison Crowder, Rodger Saffold and Duke Johnson (among others) while Jon Feliciano has departed, Cole Beasley was cut, and others like Emmanuel Sanders, Jerry Hughes, Mario Addison and Star Lotulelei are still free agents.

Then we have restricted free agent Ryan Bates, who was a key member of the Bills’ offensive line in 2021. He was one of the starting guards during the playoffs and appeared in all 33 games over the last two seasons (though he started just four of those contests).

But here come the Chicago Bears! They signed Bates to an offer sheet and now the clock is ticking for the Bills, who have five days to match the contract or else he’s gone.

The Patriots could get help from the Bears, who may steal a Bills O-lineman

Saffold was seemingly brought in to replace Feliciano/Ike Boettger, but is there a plan for Bates? As of now, the 25-year-old is listed as the starting left guard after seeing 100% of the snaps against the Patriots and Chiefs in the playoffs (compared to 25% of the regular-season offensive snaps). On the depth chart behind him is Cody Ford and Jacob Capra.

Ford started half the season and appeared in 15 games, logging 47% of the snaps, but played multiple positions. Capra has no NFL experience under his belt. This certainly isn’t the end of the world for the Bills, but it does make their OL alignment a bit more difficult to figure out should they lose a young, key figure in Bates.

The Bears are also equipped with plenty of cap space to absorb a large, multi-year deal for the former Penn State lineman, whereas the Bills have hardly any to work with. It’s unclear exactly what they’d need to do, but at the very least they’d either have to clear space in the next five days to make room for Bates or match the offer and backload the deal (if that’s even possible).

If you watched the Bills’ two postseason games, it was evident Josh Allen had pristine protection, and Bates played a big role in that. Now, unexpectedly, they might need to find a replacement when the selection is getting thinner and thinner by the hour.