Bates, 25, had free-agent visits with the Bears, Minnesota Vikings and New England Patriots this week, according to league sources, after the Bills offered an original-round tender of $2.4 million. As a restricted free agent, Bates is free to meet and receive offers from other teams, but Buffalo has the right of first refusal to match any contract offer he receives.
The Bills now have five days to match the contract that Bates signed with Chicago. Because he is tendered at the lowest level, the Bears will not need to send a draft pick to the Bills if Bates ends up in Chicago.
The 6-foot-4, 302-pound Bates spent the past three seasons primarily as a backup for the Bills after he signed as an undrafted free agent in 2019. Because of injuries along the offensive line, Bates started the final three games of the regular season and two postseason contests, most of which came at left guard, and played 223 total snaps between left and right guard last season. He also has experience at center.
While injuries led to him taking the field, Bates maintained the starting job for the end of the season and playoff run due to his performance alongside left tackle Dion Dawkins. For the season, Bates had a 93% pass block win rate at guard, which hovers around league average, and a 59% run block win rate, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.
The Bills offensive line as a unit improved with Bates on the field. Quarterback Josh Allen was not sacked once over the final three games of the season and was sacked twice in the postseason.
At the start of free agency, Buffalo signed Rodger Saffold III, who said he expects to be starting at left guard in 2022. The Bills released offensive linemen Jon Feliciano and Daryl Williams earlier this month.