The Buffalo Bills should shift Ryan Bates from right guard to left guard
Ryan Bates was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Philadelphia Eagles in 2019. He was traded to Buffalo in a deal for Eli Harold a short time later. Bates developed into a starter for the Bills and became a restricted free agent prior to the 2022 season and was rewarded with a four-year $17,000,000 contract by the Bills, who matched the offer he received from the Chicago Bears.
Moving Bates from right guard to left guard makes a lot of sense for the Buffalo Bills for a number of reasons. First is the importance of protecting Josh Allen’s blindside. Bates allowed just one 1 sack in 2022 and the lowest pressure rate of any guard in the NFL per PFF. Pairing him with Dion Dawkins would immediately provide upgraded protection, as despite his Pro Bowl selection Rodger Saffold was just not good last year.
While recently signed Connor McGovern has indicated that he expects to play left guard, as he did for most of last season in Dallas, moving him to right guard and Bates to left would put both of them in the spot where they have performed the best in their careers.
Pairing Bates with Dawkins on the left side makes sense for another reason as well. Dawkins has been much better when he has been paired with a solid left guard. Unfortunately this position has been a revolving door for the Bills over the past several seasons with Cody Ford, Jon Feliciano, Darryl Williams, and Rodger Saffold seeing significant time there, among others.
Bates has proven to be reliable and durable and seemed comfortable playing on the left side when given the opportunity in 2021. Shifting him as a stabilizing presence on the interior would significantly improve Allen’s protection, and give the Bills consistency moving forward as Bates is more likely than McGovern to stay with the Buffalo Bills long-term.