Packers signing potential starter in tackle Byron Bell
GREEN BAY - After going seven rounds in the NFL draft without selecting someone to play right tackle, the Green Bay Packers signed a potential starter Tuesday.
Free-agent tackle Byron Bell announced on his Instagram that he signed with the Packers, who confirmed the move Wednesday. Green Bay cleared room on its 90-man roster by releasing undrafted rookie lineman Jacob Alsadek.
Bell, 29, played last season with the Dallas Cowboys, where he started a pair of games replacing injured All-Pro Tyron Smith.
The Packers would hope Bell can regain the form he showed early in his career, when he was a regular starter. By virtue of their thin depth chart, Bell figures to compete prominently for the Packers' starting right tackle position. Currently, the battle is between Jason Spriggs, Kyle Murphy and Adam Pankey while Bryan Bulaga recovers from a torn ACL.
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The Cowboys were Bell’s third NFL team. He previously played for the Carolina Panthers (2011-14) and Tennessee Titans (2015). Standing 6-5 and 340 pounds, Bell has the size to play guard but is more familiar with tackle.
Bell started 56 of 64 games in four seasons with the Panthers. He was exclusively a right tackle in his first three seasons before switching to the left side for 15 starts in 2014. Bell started 16 games with the Titans in 2015, showing versatility while lining up at right tackle (eight starts), left guard (seven) and left tackle (one).
The only offensive lineman the Packers drafted this spring was Cole Madison, a fifth rounder from Washington State who projects as an NFL guard. At last week’s open OTA session, Spriggs, Murphy and Pankey rotated at right tackle. Spriggs (dislocated left kneecap) and Murphy (foot surgery) are returning from significant injuries.
The Packers preferred starting right tackle is Bulaga, but he’s unlikely to be ready for the start of the season after tearing his right ACL last November. The Packers could place Bulaga on the physically unable to perform list if he’s not ready by September, delaying his inclusion on their 53-man roster until midseason.
Spriggs, whom the Packers traded up in the second round to draft in 2016, has been disappointing in his first two seasons and faces a crossroads. Murphy has shown more promise, but the 2016 sixth-round pick is inexperienced. Pankey is even more inexperienced, playing just one game as an undrafted rookie last fall.
With Bell, the Packers have a veteran option who has starting experience.