The Eagles have big plans for Mike Bell. That much is clear. They went after Bell aggressively in free agency, signing him last week to an offer sheet and then waiting an agonizing seven days to find out that New Orleans did not match the offer and now, the question is all about how the Eagles plan to use Bell and how he fits in with this offense.
He is a young player in the NFL, someone who has a chip on his shoulder stemming from being ignored in the 2006 draft. Bell packs 225 pounds on his 6-foot frame, and he is more punisher than dancer. After beginning his career in Denver with a promising 677 yards and 8 touchdowns, Bell's career faded and then moved away from Denver, and he found a new start with the Saints.
In a Super Bowl-winning season, Bell rushed for 654 yards. He got off to a great, great start, rushing for 143 yards on 28 carries in the opening-week win and then gaining 86 yards and a touchdown on 17 tough carries in the Week 2 win over the Eagles. A knee injury knocked Bell for a loop -- as well as out of the lineup for three weeks.
The Eagles see Bell as the right kind of complement for rookie LeSean McCoy, maybe even a little Thunder and Lightning, although the nicknames should be put on hold until we see how McCoy handles the starting job and how Bell fits into the offense.
"He's a hard-nosed runner with some experience in our offense and he has the benefit of having won a Super Bowl," said Eagles general manager Howie Roseman. "Mike is a good fit here."
Bell is a significant addition, the fourth veteran the Eagles have added since free agency began. This has certainly not been a conventional group, nor has it been a predictable period of time. But it has been productive, or at least the Eagles hope that is the case. They traded for Darryl Tapp, who could very well become the starting left defensive end. They signed Marlin Jackson and will take a look at him at both free safety and cornerback and, fingers crossed, hope his knee injuries of the last two seasons have healed. They brought back wide receiver Hank Baskett, a valuable reserve on offense who has size and good hands and is a terrific blocker in the running game, as well as being a key part of the special teams.
And on Tuesday night, very late on Tuesday night, Bell officially became an Eagle one week after touring the NovaCare Complex and signing the generous offer sheet. He gives the Eagles some versatility in the backfield, a tough guy in the red zone, a power player who is entering the prime of his NFL career.
The general theme of the four additions is their youth in a free-agency period of time when age is served, along with only a few mega-contracts. The Eagles have, in this off-season, shed age from the roster and replaced the older veterans with players who have a lot of tread on their tires. Jackson's injury is obviously a question as he continues to rehab from last season's knee injury, but Tapp, Bell and Baskett are healthy and ready to contribute extensively.
We all had to wait for the official confirmation that Bell would join the Eagles, and it came after some back-and-forth changes in the deadline the Saints had to meet. The only piece that matters is Bell's role and what he brings to an offense that will benefit from his tough-guy running approach and his nose for the first-down marker.
What's next for the Eagles? A month remains before the draft, and the Eagles are going to continue to explore. They have gone the unconventional route to obtain Bell, a restricted free agent, and the Tapp trade came from left field. Roseman has proven to be creative in his early stages as the team's general manager. We'll see what the steps to come are for a football team that still has needs, and has assets to use, and that promises to provide some fun to follow.