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.