I guess this is why you save up your cap room -- in case your left tackle's season gets blown up by a late March injury and you have to go out and sign the best remaining tackle on the free-agent market in early April.
The Eagles announced Wednesday that they have signed left tackle Demetress Bell (whose name was Demetrius Bell up until this morning, when as part of the signing announcement the Eagles told us we've all been spelling it incorrectly for years) to a five-year contract. Obviously, the reason they did this was because their starting left tackle, Jason Peters, ruptured his Achilles tendon while working out last week and might miss the season.
We don't know the details of the Bell contract at this point, but while it's surely not a real "five-year contract," it's likely worth more than Bell was looking at getting from the Redskins or Steelers or Cardinals or any other interested teams at this time last week. The Eagles had a major need, and while Bell isn't close to the same player Peters is, he was their best option for filling that need. My guess is that, once the numbers come out, we'll find this deal doesn't lock the Eagles into too much responsibility beyond 2012, as they expect Peters to return by 2013 if not sooner.
It would have made little sense for the Eagles to alter their first-round draft pick plans and take a tackle, since few of the available tackles in that round appear to be ready to start right away and the Eagles need someone who can. And while they might have been able to turn up a starter in a later round, that's a lot of pressure to put on a mid-round rookie. Bell was the best solution to a bad situation, and while he won't give them what Peters gave them last season, he brings a veteran's competence and experience to a crucial position.
While the left side is not quarterback Michael Vick's "blind side," since Vick throws left-handed, the offensive line's performance in 2011 was a big reason for LeSean McCoy's monster season at running back. Bell's most important job will be jelling as quickly as possible with the rest of the Eagles' offensive linemen -- all of whom are returning 2011 starters -- and helping them continue to open holes for McCoy the way they did last season.
The Redskins, as I mentioned, were interested in Bell as a right tackle. But given their sudden level of desperation in the wake of the Peters injury, the Eagles surely were willing to offer more than the Redskins wanted to pay their right tackle. So I don't think this is a case of Washington running short on cap room because of the penalties. I think it's a case of an unforeseen event tipping the market in Bell's favor.