Despite signing two players and potentially a third, GM Ted Thompson apparently isn’t done scouring the free-agent market.
According to Joe Buscaglia of WGR 550 in Buffalo, New York, offensive tackle Demetrius Bell will visit with the Packers sometime next week. It will mark Bell’s third free-agent visit, having already met with the Washington Redskins and Arizona Cardinals.
#Bills unrestricted free agent Demetrius Bell is scheduled to visit with Green Bay later this week. Already met with Arizona and Washington
— Joe Buscaglia (@JoeB_WGR) March 26, 2012
If signed, Bell would join Jeff Saturday and Daniel Muir, and potentially Anthony Hargrove, as free agents acquired by Thompson already this offseason.
A seventh-round pick of the Bills in 2008, Bell has started 30 of 31 career games. He rose up quickly after the Bills took him as a project tackle out of Northwestern State.
Despite not appearing in a single game his rookie season, Bell emerged as the Bills’ starting left tackle in 2009 and remained the starter until Week 10, when he suffered a knee injury that later placed him on season-ending IR.
He came back in 2010 healthy and as the penciled in starter on the left side of the Bills’ offensive line. He started all 16 games but graded out as Pro Football Focus’ No. 52 overall offensive tackle after allowing four sacks, 10 quarterback hits and 29 pressures on 978 total offensive snaps. Bell’s grade took big hits for his run blocking work.
Bell got another crack to be the Bills starter in 2011, starting the first four games of the year before a shoulder injury (broken collarbone) cost him the next nine contests. He returned in Week 14 but missed the season finale with a knee injury. In seven total games, Bell allowed just one sack, one quarterback hit and seven pressures, which equated to PFF’s No. 17 overall rating at the tackle position in 2011.
He underwent surgery to repair a torn meniscus in late December.
The Bills let Bell hit the open market and likely have plans on drafting an offensive tackle high in the 2012 NFL draft. At this point of free agency, Bell could come as a bargain.
An athletic and ideally sized (6-5, 311 lbs.) offensive lineman, Bell could also provide depth at the tackle position, especially if the Packers let Chad Clifton go like some have speculated. Turning 36 years old in June with a failing body and $5.75 million cap number, Clifton is a prime candidate to be cut sometime before his roster bonus kicks late this summer.
Bell, 27, would likely compete with Marshall Newhouse to be the Packers’ starting left tackle. It’s also possible that Green Bay could move Bryan Bulaga over to the left, in which Bell could be a potential fit on the right side. The Packers also have to consider the health of 2011 first-round pick Derek Sherrod, who fractured his tibia and fibula in a game against the Kansas City Chiefs last season.