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91 players in 91 days: Offensive lineman Ryan Bates

Buffalo’s most versatile piece along the line went from longshot to rostered in a matter of weeks

New York Jets v Buffalo Bills Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images

The Buffalo Bills value versatility among their offensive linemen. Since head coach Sean McDermott and general manager Brandon Beane came aboard, the team has prioritized players who can fill in at multiple positions along the offensive line.

This allows the team to keep fewer offensive linemen active on game days, giving the team more players at the skill positions to play different match-ups. Good health along the line has helped in that regard, as well, as the Bills started the same offensive line combination in all but one game (and that was by choice, as Ty Nsekhe started over Cody Ford in the team’s victory over Washington).

In today’s edition of “91 players in 91 days,” we profile the most versatile piece along Buffalo’s offensive line—a player capable of filling in at all five positions.

Name: Ryan Bates
Number: 71
Position: OL
Height/Weight: 6’4”, 302 lbs.
Age: 23 (24 on 1/14/2021)
Experience/Draft: 1; undrafted in 2019 NFL Draft
College: Penn State
Acquired: Traded from the Philadelphia Eagles to the Bills on 8/9/19

Financial situation (per Spotrac): Bates enters the second year of his three-year contract signed with Philadelphia, a pact with a total value of $1,755,000. None of the money in the contract is guaranteed. For 2020, Bates carries a salary-cap hit of $675,000 if he makes the final roster.

2019 Recap: After Buffalo swapped defensive end Eli Harold for Bates in August, the undrafted free agent quickly solidified his place on the roster thanks to his versatility. Bates made the roster and was active for eight regular-season games. He played a total of 78 offensive snaps, 57 of which came in the season finale against the New York Jets. He also played 20 snaps on offense against the Tennessee Titans, filling in at right tackle when Cody Ford left with an injury in the third quarter (Ty Nsekhe was inactive thanks to an ankle injury, though it wasn’t the same ankle injury that caused him to miss five games later in the year). In all, Bates committed one penalty, a false start, in his 78 snaps.

Positional outlook: Bates is the only offensive lineman who is literally listed as an “offensive lineman” on the team’s website. All of the other players are listed by a particular position along the line. This versatility gives Bates a leg up on some of the other backups, as he can fill in anywhere along the line.

2020 Offseason: Nothing new to report.

2020 Season outlook: Barring injury, it’s safe to assume that Buffalo’s top six offensive linemen will remain the same as they were last year, with Dion Dawkins, Quinton Spain, Mitch Morse, Jon Feliciano, Cody Ford, and Ty Nsekhe all reprising their roles. The top reserve options include former Carolina Panthers starter Darryl Williams, Spencer Long, and Bates. I have long thought that the Bills keep too many offensive linemen on their 53-man rosters, but the team typically keeps either nine or ten. As such, Bates is a pretty safe bet to be among those who make the final roster come September. He may be inactive unless other players are injured, but a player with his versatility on such a cheap contract is a luxury for a team. Buffalo would be wise to allow Bates to reprise his role as the offensive line’s Swiss-Army knife next year.