No member of the Carolina Panthers 'offensive line took more heat last season than right tackle Byron Bell. Now, it appears, he'll get a chance to prove if he can protect quarterback Cam Newton's blind side.
The Panthers on Monday tendered the restricted free agent, as well as exclusive rights player Chris Scott.
Coach Ron Rivera mentioned Bell as a possible candidate to replace Jordan Gross at left tackle when the 11-year veteran retired a few weeks ago.
Bell, 6-foot-5 and 340 pounds, started 14 games at right tackle this past season and has started 41 of 47 career games at Carolina. He first came under fire last season after Buffalo's Mario Williams had 4.5 sacks from his side in the second game.
The heat continued most of the season. Although Bell at times played well, Pro Football Focus gave him a season rating of minus-2.8. To put that in perspective, Gross had a rating of 33.5.
That's not the kind of rating a franchise quarterback wants to hear.
Nevertheless, Rivera and Gross said Bell played much better than people gave him credit for, and both endorsed him as a possibility at left tackle.
Filling the left tackle position from within would be a huge benefit for Carolina, which had only about $7 million left under the salary cap before the day began. With a strong draft class at tackle, the Panthers also might look to fill one of the two starting spots with a first- or second-round pick.
And don't forget, Williams has started 13 games at right tackle.
Scott (6-4 and 320 pounds) gives the Panthers more depth at guard. He started the first eight games this past season -- one at left and seven at right -- before suffering a knee injury against Atlanta in October.
Monday's moves won't draw big headlines, but they could mean the Panthers won't be heavily involved in free agency for offensive linemen -- at least not a high-priced tackle.
That's big considering the needs for upgrades at cornerback and wide receiver.