Bears Poach Athletic Offensive Lineman That the Vikings Wanted ‘Badly’: Report

Ryan Bates

Getty Offensive lineman Ryan Bates is set to sign an offer sheet from the Chicago Bears.

The only offensive linemen the Minnesota Vikings had publicly met with in free agency opted to side with a rival in the NFC North.

Former Buffalo Bills offensive lineman Ryan Bates, a restricted free agent, signed an offer sheet with the Chicago Bears after meeting with New England Patriots and Vikings, the Chicago Tribune’s Brad Biggs reported on March 24.

The Bills have five days to match the Bears’ offer, but with Bates signing an offer sheet with Chicago, he is effectively out of reach for the Vikings, who also made an offer for Bates.

“The Vikings did make an offer,” KSTP’s Darren Wolfson reported on March 24 on the SKOR North podcast. “The Vikings wanted Ryan Bates. They made him a nice offer. I don’t necessarily know if it’s the same offer that the Bears made. The Bears certainly have a bit more financial flexibility than the Vikings. But make no mistake about this: the Vikings made Bates an offer. They wanted him badly.”

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Vikings Still Searching for Answer at Guard

Minnesota’s offensive line has taken steps forward in recent years after hitting on left tackle Christian Darrisaw (2021, No. 23 overall) and left guard Ezra Cleveland (2020, No. 58 overall) in the past two drafts.

But the Vikings still need help in the offensive interior after a revolving cast at guard over the past three seasons. Minnesota drafted Wyatt Davis in the third round last season, but the Ohio State product failed to notch any snaps after he was poised to take over as the team’s starting right guard.

ESPN’s Courtney Cronin reported that she heard at the 2022 combine that Davis was a “Rick Spielman special,” meaning Davis was solely appraised as a worthwhile gamble by the general manager.

“That was a Rick Spielman special, where here didn’t listen to anyone else in the room on Wyatt Davis. That he went after his guy,” Cronin said on the Purple Insider podcast. “Two scouts I talked to in the Minnesota Vikings organization, said that this guy wasn’t even a backup grade for them. Okay? That is what the reality of that situation was.”

Davis may not fit in the new regime’s vision either after the recent interest in Bates shows they’re looking for more help at guard.

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Vikings Would Be Wise to Find a Veteran Lineman

Guard isn’t the only area of concern on the Vikings’ offensive line. The No. 18 overall pick in the 2019 draft, Garrett Bradbury, has yet to live up to his first-round status.

Bradbury has posted the lowest pass-blocking grade by Pro Football Focus in 2019 and 2020 and showed little improvement in his third season last year.

The Vikings have a crossroads with Bradbury, who is eligible to have his fifth-year option exercised this spring. If Minnesota plans to keep Bradbury beyond 2022, his fifth-year option projection is estimated at $13.20 million, per OverTheCap.

That would be $9 million more than the $4.09 million cap hit Bradbury carries this season, and he hasn’t shown evidence to keep him at that rate.

Minnesota should entertain future options at center, whether it’s a veteran who can play guard in 2022 and potentially take over for Bradbury in the future.

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