Quick Takes on Eagles New LT Demetress Bell

Quick Takes on Eagles New LT Demetress Bell

1. The future is Bell?

The length of Demetress Bell's news contract worth $35 million was a surprise, but the Inquirer's Jeff McLane reports only the first year of the five-year deal is guaranteed, making it so Bell only plays out the remaining years if the team needs him -- which they might.

Jason Peters' future is up in the air as a result of his injury. The one silver lining from this disaster is Peters has almost 18 months to rehab for kickoff in 2013, but recovery from an Achilles injury can be unpredictable. Peters can become a free agent in 2015 as well, so the front office won't have long to make a decision on how to proceed with their All-Pro left tackle.

Bell is a nice insurance policy should things take a turn for the worse with Peters, but he also protects the Eagles in the event of another catastrophic injury along the offensive line, or from a situation as simple as Danny Watkins not panning out. Todd Herremans can always slide back to guard if Peters is healthy, so there are a few different combinations they can try.

All of which is contingent on Bell proving his worth. Again, the Eagles undoubtedly have their outs, and if everybody is healthy and playing at a high level, the estimated $7 million annually is generally too much for a back-up anything. However, five years leaves the team with the option to retain Bell's services for as long as they deem necessary -- and that much is anybody's guess.

2. Bargaining Chip

Five years was a bit of a surprise, but it's not just about renting a left tackle for this season. The Eagles are positioning themselves to make moves.

Assuming Peters does make a near-full recovery, and everybody else is alive a year or two from now, the Eagles could have themselves yet another asset for the trading block. Some team desperately in need of a left tackle down the line may be willing to pay a steep price to acquire Bell should he have a quality season. We won't go so far as to place a value on his services, but five teams kicked Bell's tires this offseason, so he will draw some interest.

3. Eagles Can and Should Still Draft Linemen

This addition does not preclude the team from adding more depth in the draft. In fact, if Peters' injury proves anything, it's the old adage you can never have too many tackles on the roster. Obviously it's not a front-line, first-round type of need anymore, which is great. The belief is tackle could be a reach at #15 overall, and you still have to hold out some bit of hope Peters can eventually return to form.

That said, you can no longer count on Peters, nor can you assume Bell solves that problem, nor that King Dunlap can be the guy either. It would be wise to find something with which to break glass in case of emergency should plans A, B, C all fall flat.

Knowing the Eagles, they will do exactly that. In fact, looking back on the Andy Reid era, it's actually unusual they were caught with their pants down in this situation. Ordinarily the Birds have a handful of versatile linemen in their employ who could slide outside at a moment's notice, not at all unlike Herremans. It seems with Evan Mathis and Danny Watkins, that's not the case. They further emptied their coffers by dumping Jamaal Jackson and Winston Justice, so reenforcements surely are on the way.

So while signing Bell was a great short-term investment with certain long-term repercussions, don't expect the Eagles to stop there. With the exception of one or two off years, offensive line has almost always been a strength under this regime. No reason to expect that commitment to change.

Jay Wright amazed by Joel Embiid's improvements since Kansas

Jay Wright amazed by Joel Embiid's improvements since Kansas

Jay Wright remembers facing Joel Embiid's Kansas team, and he's shocked by the improvements Embiid made while sitting out the last two years.

"Could you imagine not playing for two years and getting better?" Wright said Friday on TCN's Breakfast on Broad. "We played against him in college and he was not close — he was good, but not close to the player that he was at the start of this year. 

"What [the Sixers'] staff did while he was out is incredible. I don't know what other pro athlete has done that or could do that — not play and improve drastically.

"He's a unique force. We haven't seen a guy that's got this will defensively and ability defensively and then the skill level and mobility offensively. I've heard some people compare him to (Hakeem) Olajuwon. He's far more mobile than Olajuwon. Olajuwon, offensively, had his set of skills, which [Embiid] will develop. But the mobility he's got far exceeds Olajuwon. He's exciting. ... It's nice to feel this vibe with the Sixers right now."

Wright was also asked if he, as a coach, would want a player on a minutes restriction participating in the All-Star Game.

"Yeah, I would," he said. "I think that it's such an accomplishment for Joel Embiid. It would build his confidence so much to be on the floor with those guys and realize he's earned this. And to have that a part of his psyche going into the next season — 'OK, I've already been separated during the regular season with those guys, I belong with those guys.' So next year I'm thinking, 'I wanna beat these guys, I wanna be better than these guys.' 

"I think it'll be great for him. I think it's awesome ... what Brett Brown and his staff have done with this guy."

As lucky as good?
With a national championship and another No. 1 ranking this season, it would be understandable if Wright was feeling himself right about now. 'Nova is 17-1 and back atop the AP poll after a brief stint at No. 3.

National Player of the Year candidate Josh Hart is leading the way for the Wildcats with 18.8 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. A lot of Villanova's success this season is owed to Hart's decision to return for his senior year, so Wright has no issue admitting there's been some luck involved in the Wildcats' recent success.

"It's a tremendous advantage and it's really been probably the most important factor in our success the last three, four years," Wright said of 'Nova's senior leadership Friday on TCN's Breakfast on Broad.

"A lot of it is, on Villanova's side, luck. Josh Hart could have left last year. He just looked at it and kind of said, 'I could be maybe a late first-round, early [second-round pick]. I'd rather come back and get my degree.' 

"Having people that make that choice, you're lucky. If we lose him last year, we're a lot younger team this year. Daniel Ochefu the year before was faced with that decision. He stayed. 

"So when you get those guys that decide they're gonna stay, you catch a break because they're invaluable, a senior of that level. Daniel's playing in the NBA now. So we had a guy for a year that was an NBA player. And we have that with Josh this year. Kris (Jenkins) is developing into one, Darryl (Reynolds) has a chance."

Villanova, which destroyed Seton Hall 76-46 on Monday, hosts Providence Saturday at noon.

Gregg Popovich on Sixers: 'One of my joys in life to watch them win'

Gregg Popovich on Sixers: 'One of my joys in life to watch them win'

When Brett Brown agreed to become the Sixers' head coach, he knew he was embarking upon a unique challenge with a franchise that planned to be as methodical as possible in its rebuild. 

One of the results was a career record for Brown of 47-199 entering this season, a record so lopsidedly poor that Brown may never break the .500 mark.

But the Sixers are finally showing real progress, with a star in Joel Embiid and young players who are turning out to be useful pieces. The Sixers have won seven of their last nine, and there's no one happier to see that than Brown's former boss and mentor, Gregg Popovich.

"It's one of my joys in life to watch them win basketball games because if there's any team that deserves it, it's those guys," Popovich told ESPN.

Brown and the Sixers aren't out of the woods yet. At 14-26, they're still closer to the bottom of the Eastern Conference, but the entire vibe around the team has changed. 

"They've had it really tough for all the obvious reasons," said Popovich, who has been the Spurs' head coach since 1996 and worked with Brown from 2002-13.

"There's nobody in our business that is more positive, and more day-to-day upbeat and ready to teach and love than Brett Brown. He's a unique, unique guy."