Palm Beach, FL (WGR 550) - The Buffalo Bills made two offensive line moves on Monday, re-signing unrestricted free agent Ike Boettger and matching the offer sheet from the Chicago Bears for restricted free agent Ryan Bates.
Bates was a restricted free agent and given the “original round” tender offer of $2.43 million for one year by the Bills, the lowest available to them. That meant they would have the right of first refusal to match any offer he signed from another team.
However, since he came into the league as an undrafted free agent, the Bills would not be entitled to any compensation if they declined to match.
While at the annual NFL League Meetings in Palm Beach, Florida, Bills general manager confirmed to WGR that it was a four-year deal the Bills matched for Bates, but did not disclose the dollar amount. Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune reported it is for a total of $17 million, including about $8.8 million fully guaranteed.
Bates proved to be extremely valuable for the team down the stretch in 2021, starting the final three regular season contests and both playoff games at guard, and playing really well overall.
The 25-year-old has been with the Bills for three years, acquired via trade from the Philadelphia Eagles prior to the 2019 season. His biggest asset has been his versatility. Bates can actually play all five offensive line spots, but after settling in at guard and playing as well as he did, that may be the spot for him going forward.
Beane told reporters on Monday he sees Bates competing for a starting spot.
The Bills also recently signed veteran guard Rodger Saffold, who was an unrestricted free agent. Saffold is expected to start at one of the guard spots.
As far as Boettger, when the offensive guard musical chairs finally settled last year, he was one of the players who still had a seat. Aside from starting one game while Jon Feliciano was out, Boettger was a backup for the first six contests, then inserted into the starting lineup in Week 8 and never lost his spot. Unfortunately, however, he suffered a torn Achilles the day after Christmas in New England and finished the season on Injured Reserve.
Beane said Boettger had a good exam on his most recent physical, but still has rehab ahead of him. The team will evaluate where he is when training camp begins in late July.
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