Per Twitterverse, Green Bay has scheduled a visit with free agent left tackle Demetrius Bell, who has already met with the Arizona Cardinals, who opted for Levi Brown, and Washington Redskins. Other teams are also rumored to be interested, while Bell has stated he would like to return to Buffalo, though Buffalo has not returned the sentiment.
Bell, like too many of the Green Bay's offensive linemen in recent seasons, has struggled to stay healthy. Since being drafted in the seventh round in 2008, Bell has played just 28 games in four seasons, though he was essentially professionally "red shirted" his rookie season.
Following an encouraging offseason, Buffalo was compelled to give Bell a shot at starting left tackle, a spot he held (both figuratively and literally, to the dismay of fans) for eight starts before suffering a season-ending knee injury.
He returned fresh in 2010, starting all 16 of the Bills regular season games. Buffalo's offensive line allowed only 23 sacks and supported two running backs who averaged more than five yards per carry (Fred Jackson and CJ Spiller). But, as any offensive lineman will attest, a knee injury has a knack for coming back.
Wait, did I say knee? I meant shoulder and the knee, the latter on which he had surgery in January to repair a torn meniscus.
It's all part of the plan.
Those injuries add up, yes, but they also weigh against Bell's market value. Few teams wish to risk a significant salary on a penalty-prone, fifth-year player with one 16-game season under his belt.
But Green Bay and Ted Thompson might.
Marshall Newhouse is Green Bay's incumbent left tackle, and Chad Clifton (set to be paid $6 million this season) may be a salary cap casualty, due to chronic injuries. Newhouse's talent and effort leave something to be desired, and Bell, a very athletic tackle, could make a push for the starting role, or at least add much-needed depth to the offensive line.
As noted in my response to the Packers acquisition of free agent center Jeff Saturday, an experienced and injury-averse Pro Bowler, the Packers do not intend to draft one of the two monster Wisconsin offensive linemen in the first round of the draft.
Not going to happen.
Green Bay is establishing through free agency that defense is the number one, two, and three priorities in the draft. Dom Capers' 3-4 defensive scheme will hinge on acquiring a fierce blitzing linebacker who can complement, and perhaps free, Clay Matthews.
It's no coincidence that when Green Bay's defensive sacks fell from 47 in 2010 to 29 in 2011, the defense simultaneously tumbled from being ranked 7th in the NFL in yards per drive allowed to 29th last season.
Signing Bell certainly isn't a guarantee, but to echo the sentiments of many Packers followers, it's a Ted Thompson signing: a player about to hit his prime years, flying under the radar and oozing with talent.
Now he needs a season and a purpose, both of which Green Bay can provide.