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Better late than never for new Packers Marcedes Lewis, Byron Bell

The Packers tight end group of Jimmy Graham, Lance Kendricks and Marcedes Lewis, above, is "gonna be trouble" for defenses. Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Marcedes Lewis and Byron Bell are tied to each other for one reason: They signed with the Green Bay Packers after most of the veteran free agents had already found jobs.

That's where the similarities end for the pair of late-May signings.

The 34-year-old Lewis joined a new team for the first time after he spent his first 12 years with Jacksonville Jaguars.

The 29-year-old Bell is on his fourth team in seven years.

Lewis joined a tight end group that already included one of the top-free agent acquisitions, Jimmy Graham, and fellow veteran Lance Kendricks -- a group that Lewis said is "gonna be trouble" for defenses.

Bell joined an offensive line group that might need a Week 1 starter at right tackle given how unlikely it is that Bryan Bulaga will be ready for the opener after he tore his ACL last November.

The moves were another sign that new general manager Brian Gutekunst might not be done tweaking the roster.

Although the signings happened at the same time of year, they should be viewed independently.

Lewis has 375 career receptions and 33 touchdowns in his 170 games. He was surprised when the Jaguars released him in late March, after the free-agency period began.

"As you know, I got a raw deal in Jacksonville," Lewis said Thursday after his second organized team activities session with the Packers. "I took it probably maybe like a month off, training back at home. Another week to kind of assess what I'd like to do and where I'd like to play. There were a handful of teams who called me every day. The Packers were pretty persistent. This was the only place I took a trip to. I took my trip and Aaron was here in the locker room. I started talking to him. I started talking to Jimmy and I kind of made my decision that day. When I came down here, I didn't expect to sign anything. I was just coming down here to get a feel. Once I saw Aaron and Jimmy, it was a no-brainer after that."

Lewis signed a one-year, $2.1 million deal that included a $500,000 signing bonus and another half-million dollar bonus if he's on the opening-day roster. He signed his deal while still in Green Bay on his visit.

Despite respectable stats, Lewis has long been known for his blocking -- not a strength of Graham or Kendricks. He might be one of only a handful of two-tool tight ends left in the NFL, where tight ends have become glorified receivers.

"It's not as common anymore and there's only a couple of us -- me, Gronk to do it at that level, to be able to run-block and catch, do all of that, probably a few," Lewis said. "And after I'm gone, Gronk will probably retire in a few years, and then it'll be a whole passing league."

Bell, who spent last season as a backup with the Cowboys after starting for the Panthers (2011-14) and the Titans (2015), was at home in Greenville, Texas, when the Packers called last week. His visit ended without signing after he said "it wasn't going the way I wanted it to" in terms of money. Bell signed a one-year, $1.6 million deal that included a $500,000 signing bonus, an $850,000 base salary plus roster bonuses of $12,500 for each game active and a $50,000 workout bonus.

"I guess the agent and upstairs, you know, the money's got to be right," Bell said. "I'm just like, 'Look, I wasn't raised that way. I just wanted to play football.' My agent's like, 'OK,' he got it done and I'm here."

But before Bell signed, he had something to take care of at home.

"I had to cut my mama's grass," he said. "They were giving me a hard time upstairs, but that's just life. I didn't get it how I wanted to get it, but the Lord blessed me. I don't need the fancy things. I've got a used truck, and I just want to work. That's just me. That's how I was always raised. I didn't have a cell phone growing up. I didn't have a car in college. I figured it out. I graduated, whatever it takes. That's just life. Even when I'm done playing football, I have to figure it out and continue my life after football, I guess. But as long as I'm a Packer, I'm just going to work hard. Wherever I'm needed, I'm going to do it. Since 2011 to now, I just continue to work. That's just the guy I am."

And if he needs a partner to take a crash-course in Mike McCarthy's offense, he's got Lewis across the locker room.