The Carolina Panthers took steps Monday to shore up their offensive line depth – an area general manager Dave Gettleman identified as an offseason concern.
The Panthers re-signed a starting lineman and tendered contracts to two others on the eve of the NFL’s free-agent signing period.
The team re-signed Garry Williams to a one-year contract, and offered one-year deals to starting right tackle Byron Bell and right guard Chris Scott, an exclusive rights free agent.
Bell, a restricted free agent, was tendered at the second-round level, according to a league source. The tender is worth $2.187 million, and the Panthers would receive a second-round pick as compensation if another team offers Bell and the Panthers decline to match it.
Tight end/fullback Richie Brockel, another restricted free agent, agreed to a two-year deal Monday. Terms of the Brockel and Williams deals were not disclosed.
Bell has started 41 of 47 games in three seasons since the Panthers signed him as an undrafted free agent out of New Mexico. Bell is big (6-foot-5 and 340 pounds) and strong but struggles against speed pass-rushers.
Buffalo defensive end Mario Williams beat Bell repeatedly on his way to a 4.5-sack game in the Bills’ Week 2 win last season.
But the Panthers view Bell as a possible successor to left tackle Jordan Gross, a three-time Pro Bowler who retired last month following 11 seasons.
Williams, a sixth-year player who has battled injuries during recent seasons, could work at right tackle if Bell shifts to the left side.
Williams, who would’ve become an unrestricted free agent, was the Week 1 starter at right guard last season before tearing his ACL against Seattle and missing the rest of the season. Williams, undrafted out of Kentucky in 2009, is a versatile lineman who can play guard and tackle.
Scott, 6-4 and 320 pounds, signed with the Panthers last August after failing Buffalo’s conditioning test. He started the first half of the season at guard before injuring his knee against Atlanta in November.
While he was sidelined, Scott lost his starting position to former defensive tackle Nate Chandler, who is another possibility to replace Gross at left tackle.
Brockel is a jack-of-all-trades known for his blocking and his ability to play special teams.
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