Why Byron Bell is Not a Solution for the Packers
As he continues to distance himself from his predecessor, Brian Gutekunst made another late offseason addition to his roster last week, bringing aboard offensive lineman Byron Bell.
It was a reunion more than a year in the making. Bell visited the Packers last year before ultimately signing with the Cowboys. At the time, we pegged Bell as a potential starter at right guard in addition to a depth candidate elsewhere:
The Packers need a starting right guard, and Bell has the experience and size (6-5, 340) to make it work. He’s started everywhere he’s been throughout his career, and while he may not be an elite level player, the Packers could use another big body.
Bell also has intriguing versatility, which is something the Packers value from their offensive linemen. Don Barclay has made a career out of being able to line up virtually anywhere, and Bell certainly has shown he can do that.
The Packers obviously thought much the same, introducing him as a “T/G” in the team’s official write up of the signing and making special emphasis on his varied experience in his career so far.
But looking at Bell on film, it appears he may not be a terrific option at tackle, which bodes poorly for the return on this signing.
Bell’s versatility may be oversold
After serving as a utility starter at several offensive line spots throughout his career, Bell worked almost exclusively as a backup tackle during his lone season in Dallas, looking underwhelming in the process. He started two games at left tackle last season, and a look at the film from that performance shows a player who may be better suited to a role where he doesn’t have to play in space.
Bell is a big, heavy lineman who plays like a big, heavy lineman. Here, he uses that bulk to his advantage, burying a Philadelphia defender on a run block.
Bell can also use his size to great effect in certain pass blocking situations, like when he bodies up a defender on this inside rush.
Relying on that style of blocking can be risky, though, as we see here. Bell tries to get his body into the pass rusher but fails and is beaten badly.
Bell never tested like a phenomenal athlete (an abysmal —even for a lineman— 5.36 40-yard dash at his pro day with poor agility numbers) and it shows when he has to play in space. Here, his lack of speed has him looking top heavy against a much faster player.
His lack of agility, meanwhile, shows up in a big way on this running play.
What does this mean for the Packers?
The Packers gave Bell a $500,000 signing bonus, and his relative merits aside, that contract all but guarantees Bell will be with the team to start the season.
With Bryan Bulaga still recovering from a torn ACL, the Packers do have need at tackle as well as at guard, but Bell seems like a longshot to solve the situation.
Bell could be considered a bridge option at tackle, getting the Packers from the start of the season to whenever it is that Bulaga is ready to go. But even in that limited stretch, Bell shouldn’t be counted upon to hold down the tackle spot at a high level, at least based on the limited looks he got in 2017.