Bears To Feature Training Camp Center Competition; RG Spot Uncertain?

The Bears have two veteran options for their center spot, adding both players — Ryan Bates, Coleman Shelton — this offseason. These additions have not produced a starter-swingman hierarchy just yet, with a training camp battle on tap.

Bears offensive line coach Chris Morgan said (via The Athletic’s Adam Jahns) Bates and Shelton will match up for the job once the pads come on. The Bears have eyed Bates for a bit, having signed him to an RFA offer sheet — one the Bills ended up matching — in 2022. But the veteran guard worked as a Buffalo backup in 2023. Shelton, conversely, worked as a starter throughout last season with the Rams.

Before Chicago’s offseason program began, a rumor pointed to Bates having a better shot at claiming the job despite his 2023 second-string role. The Bears designed his current four-year, $17MM contract, and although the team changed offensive coordinators since that point, Morgan remains in place as Chicago’s O-line coach. Shelton signed a one-year, $3MM Bears deal.

Bates, 27, has made 19 career starts. Almost all of those came in 2022, when the Bills matched the offer sheet. Pro Football Focus ranked Bates 41st among guards in 2022, and he lost a position battle to second-round pick O’Cyrus Torrence. The latter’s assimilation provided the Bills some stability, and they deemed Bates expendable (for a fifth-round pick) this offseason. Although the Bills rostered Mitch Morse throughout Bates’ Buffalo stay, Bates saw 135 snaps at center in 2022 and played there sparingly in 2021 and ’23.

Shelton, 29 next month, started all 18 Rams games last season and made 13 starts for an injury-battered 2022 Los Angeles team. While the Rams were interested in re-signing Shelton, they doled out two high-priced guard deals (to Kevin Dotson and Jonah Jackson) and are moving Steve Avila to center. A former UDFA, Shelton only played center in 2023; PFF slotted him 17th at the position. Shelton played mostly center for the Rams in 2022, but he also logged 258 snaps at guard. Shelton and Bates’ guard work could be notable as well.

The Bears gave four-year Titans starter Nate Davis a three-year, $30MM pact and installed him at right guard, moving ascending blocker Teven Jenkins to left guard last year. PFF slotted Davis 58th among guards in his Bears debut, and Jahns expects the team to have the former Tennessee starter battle for a starting job as well. Davis’ $8.75MM 2024 base salary is guaranteed; his 2025 compensation is not.

On Titans teams that regularly battled extensive injury trouble, Davis did miss 12 regular-season games from 2019-22. He started 54 over the course of his rookie contract, however, and impressed, leading to the Bears authorizing $17.5MM guaranteed at signing. An additional $1.75MM locked in for Davis in March. But the former third-round pick missed six games last season.

Third-round pick Kiram Amegadjie played guard at points at Yale, though he his final full season (2022) came at left tackle. His final college season ended early due to quad surgery. An Ivy League-to-NFL transition will naturally be difficult, especially coming off injury, but Amegadjie could also give the Bears an option at some point.

The door may well be open for both Bates and Shelton to start in 2024, with Amegadjie a wild card as a developmental blocker. Though, Davis certainly will have a chance to keep his job.

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