Both the Bears and Vikings Are Showing Interest in Bills Free Agent OL Ryan Bates (UPDATE: Bears Visit “Likely” This Week)

Ryan Bates
Ryan Bates

Even though the four teams in the NFC North are at different stages on the competitive spectrum, I find it interesting to see when two teams have crossover in potential targets.

Earlier, we were discussing the Packers and Bears potentially having eyes for the same receiver targets. But Green Bay isn’t the only team Chicago is battling with for players in the open market. The Minnesota Vikings reportedly have an interest in Buffalo Bills free agent offensive lineman Ryan Bates, who is reportedly making the rounds on visits:

Bates is an interesting lineman target.The 25-year-old has 41 games of playing experience under his belt, but is coming off a season in which he made four spot starts. A guard by trade, the Penn State product’s résumé shows Bates has versatility. While playing for the Nittany Lions, Bates picked up starts at left guard, left tackle, and right tackle. He was a USA Today Freshman All-American who earned third-team All-Big Ten honors in 2018. Maybe teams see him as a swing tackle. Perhaps there is interest as someone who can compete for a starting job and beat someone out in a camp competition. But that the Bears are being joined by the Vikings as Patriots as teams with interest suggests Bates has something teams like.

For what it’s worth, Bates signed with the Philadelphia Eagles as a priority free agent after the 2019 NFL Draft. It feels notable to point out that Bears Assistant GM Ian Cunningham was Philly’s Assistant Director of Player Personnel at the time. In other words, Cunningham might have had eyes on Bates while in Philadelphia and left a strong impression. Maybe with that background, the Bears could pull out their potential secret weapon and put it to use. Of course, Bates still has visits to make before we can start guessing how a possible prior relationship could work in Chicago’s favor. Nevertheless, Bates’ name is one to keep in mind.

No, he isn’t the high-profile splash name we’ve been envisioning the Bears would add. Instead, Bates is the kind of low-risk lineman with the potential to reach another level if given an up-tick in playing time. Threading the needle with these types of players isn’t easy. But the juice can be worth the squeeze if the price is right. So, let’s keep tabs on this situation and keep an eye out for others who could fit the bill.

UPDATE (8:21 p.m. CT) Brad Biggs of the Tribune reports Bates is “likely” to visit this week. As a restricted free agent for a Bills team that is tight against the cap, the Bears — who aren’t pressing up against it — could make a firm offer that keeps Buffalo from matching. And it might be worth it, too. Especially if the Bears truly view Bates as a starter at guard and compensate him as such.

written by

Luis C. Medina, who you can find on Twitter at lcm1986, has been covering the Chicago Bears at Bleacher Nation since 2017. Since then, he has written about 3 head coaches, 5 play-callers, and 11 starting quarterbacks. Previously, Luis wrote about the Cubs and MLB at BN (2015-16) and worked in the Chicago Tribune sports department (2011-16). He also co-hosted a Cubs postgame show, Outside the Ivy, in 2019.

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