After longtime starting right tackle Doug Free announced his retirement this offseason, it now appears the Dallas Cowboys could have found his successor via free agency.
For years, fans of the Dallas Cowboys have been pleading the team to part ways with longtime starting right tackle Doug Free. The 33-year old lineman once again led the team in penalties last season and was considered by many to be the offensive line’s weakest link.
Earlier this month, Free granted that wish by announcing his retirement. But his sudden void left a major hole to fill along the league’s top offensive line. Early speculation had former starting left guard La’el Collins shifting over to right tackle. Others believed former 2015 third round selection Chaz Green was the front-runner to replace Free despite his injury history.
Although either move stills seems possible, a new option was introduced on Friday when the Cowboys signed free agent offensive lineman Byron Bell to a one-year deal.
Undrafted out of New Mexico back in 2011, Bell spent his first four NFL seasons with the Carolina Panthers. During that span, the Texas native started 56 out of a possible 64 games for the Panthers.
Bell has spent the last two years with the Tennessee Titans. In 2015, he started all 16 games for the Titans splitting reps between right tackle, left tackle and left guard according to DallasCowboys.com’s David Helman.
In 2015, Bell started all 16 games for Tennessee — 8 at RT, 7 at LG, 1 at LT.
Say it with me: "position flex!"
— David Helman (@HelmanDC) March 24, 2017
Unfortunately, the 28-year old missed all of last season after he severely dislocated his left ankle during OTA’s last May. Bell’s addition to the Cowboys roster automatically makes him a candidate to replace Free on the starting lineup. At the very least, he could become the team’s new swing tackle.
The addition of a free agent like Byron Bell gives the Dallas Cowboys some breathing room when it comes to their strategy for the upcoming NFL Draft. Without this signing, the Cowboys would have likely been forced to spend a high draft pick on an offensive lineman instead of addressing more pressing needs on their roster.