The Philadelphia Eagles announced that they have signed Demetress Bell to a five-year deal. Bell was a free agent after finishing his fourth season with the Buffalo Bills and picked the Eagles after visiting a slew of different teams.
Jason Peters is likely out for the 2012 season with a torn Achilles tendon, an injury that may have prompted the Eagles to reach out to Bell for a long-term deal. Former Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Antwan Odom suffered a similar injury in 2009 and was never the same, playing his last down of football just one year later.
As of now, Bell will fill the void at left tackle during ’12, a move that isn’t as important with Michael Vick being a left-handed quarterback. Todd Herremans will man the right-tackle spot, and he did a fine job of protecting Vick’s blind side last season.
Assuming Peters returns in 2013 at full form, the Eagles have a quality backup in Bell, although the reported $35 million he is being paid does seem like an awfully high price to pay for a league-average tackle that probably won't start in '13.
Peters does have just three seasons left on his six-year deal, and he’s expected to miss all of the fourth year (2012). The Eagles have a good insurance policy in Bell, although it’s surprising to me that he agreed to a deal that will likely make him a backup by 2013.
Bell is your typical league-average tackle, but I think he’s an upgrade over King Dunlap. I trust Bell to stay healthier than Marcus McNeill, who has struggled with neck and spinal problems as of late, and I think Bell is more productive than free agent tackle Kareem McKenzie, formerly of the New York Giants.
There’s virtually no way Bell will be able to replace the production of Peters, who was far and away the league’s best tackle in 2011—an extremely athletic man who excelled in both the run-blocking and blocking aspects. But offensive-line guru Howard Mudd was able to coax an All-Pro-caliber season out of journeyman guard Evan Mathis and he should be able to get the most out of Bell.
Considering the Eagles are talented enough to be going all-in next season, storing up the offensive line was a necessity and the Bell signing was a good move to replace the injured Peters. Contracts aren't by any means guaranteed, and it's doubtful Bell will play out all five seasons. Assuming there's an easy opt-out clause of some sort, I like the Bell signing now as quality insurance for an injured Peters and a possible replacement in '13 if Peters doesn't return to full form.