The Buffalo Bills have done a nice job cultivating plenty of talent along the offensive line. The team often is deep enough where they’re trading linemen in August for draft choices. While they’ve been relatively healthy over the last few years, in times when that depth has been tested, much of that depth has had success.
The guard position, though, was a thorn in the heel last year, as most of the Bills’ top options didn’t pan out the way the team figured they would. What ended up happening at the position wasn’t what anyone would have imagined, but sometimes, all it takes is an opportunity for a player to make himself known.
In today’s edition of “90 players in 90 days,” we discuss the man who will probably start at right guard for Buffalo this year.
Name: Ryan Bates
Height/Weight: 6’4” 302 lbs
Age: 25 (26 on 2/14/2023)
College: Penn State
Acquired: Traded to Buffalo on 8/9/2019 for Eli Harold
Financial situation (per Spotrac): Bates signed an offer sheet with the Chicago Bears this offseason, but as a restricted free agent who the Bills had tendered a contract, they had the right to match the offer, and they did. So, Bates signed a four-year contract with Buffalo worth a total of $17 million with $8.85 million guaranteed. He carries a cap hit of $2.375 million this year and a dead-cap number of $8.85 million if he’s traded or released.
2021 Recap: Bates began the year like he had every other year with the Bills, playing a role as a reserve/sixth offensive lineman at times. As the backup center, he was extremely important in that regard, so the team didn’t give him much of a chance to play. Even with injuries and COVID-19 hitting players like Dion Dawkins, Spencer Brown, and Jon Feliciano, Bates never entered the starting lineup. Bates’s big break came at the expense of another teammate, as Cody Ford had played terribly in his time at guard. Bates started the final three games of the regular season and also the team’s two playoff games, acquitting himself well in all five starts.
Positional outlook: Bates is a near lock to be the team’s starting right guard, with veteran Rodger Saffold slated to be the starter at left guard. Cody Ford, Greg Van Roten, Jordan Simmons, Jacob Capra, and David Quessenberry are the healthy players the team lists at guard. Ike Boettger is on the PUP list as he recovers from a torn Achilles tendon suffered in December. Bobby Hart and Tommy Doyle have also seen time on the inside even though they’re listed as tackles.
2022 Offseason: Bates has participated in all offseason activities to date. He did not play in the team’s 27-24 preseason opening victory against the Indianapolis Colts.
2022 Season outlook: Bates has a tremendous opportunity in front of him this year. The Bills could have allowed him to go to Chicago after he signed that big offer sheet, but general manager Brandon Beane made it a priority to bring him back, perhaps remembering what happened with Wyatt Teller after he traded the then-second-year man to the Cleveland Browns. Bates is a totally different player, as he’s more a versatile tactician than Teller, who was more a mauler with a mean streak. Bates is highly athletic, and putting him in between two phenomenal athletes in center Mitch Morse and right tackle Spencer Brown could give the Bills excellent potential on screen passes and in the outside run game. After he passed his first major audition last year, Bates has a chance to make the encore even better in 2022.