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Free-agent scouting report: Bills OLT Demetrius Bell

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By Kevin Fishbain

This is the 32nd in a series of scouting reports on key players who are expected to become free agents on March 13, unless they are re-signed or franchised before then.

News: Bell had an odd 2011 season, which is unfortunate considering he got off to a good start. When the Bills' O-line was at its best early in the season, a big reason was Bell's improved play. A shoulder injury knocked him out from Weeks 5-13. When he suffered the injury in Week Four, it seemed that Bell would be able to return following the team's Week Seven bye. However, the injury was more serious than the team originally thought. Bell returned and started in Weeks 15 and 16 before hurting his knee and missing the season finale. The injury-marred campaign did raise questions about his durability. GM Buddy Nix and head coach Chan Gailey acknowledged that injuries were a problem, but Nix said the team would try to re-sign him. "Demetrius Bell has got all the tools. He's got the good feet, he's a good athlete, he's what you look for at LT," Nix told reporters in early January. Chris Hairston, a 2011 fourth-round pick, started when Bell was out, and Nix also said the team likely will draft another tackle.

Notes: Bell started all 16 games in 2010 after starting all eight he played in during the '09 season. He played in seven games with six starts in 2011, allowing only half a sack and not getting flagged once. He had five penalties and gave up 5.25 sacks in 2010.

Positives: Bell got rid of the mental lapses that he showed earlier in his career and did a solid job of protecting Ryan Fitzpatrick's blind side in 2011. He has good feet and agility for the position. His 2011 season, when he played, showed his ability to improve.

Negatives: Bell has been inconsistent, and durability is a big concern. He has played in more than eight games in only one season in his career. As well as he played early in 2011, it's a small sample size.

Risk factor: Moderate. Teams are always looking to upgrade and add depth to the tackle position in the passing era of football, and Bell could have suitors if the Bills don't re-sign him. But his health will need to be researched closely, and teams need to decide if the first four games of the 2011 season are an accurate representation of what Bell can bring to the field on a weekly basis. Nix made it seem like the Bills will try to re-sign him, but Bell might have to compete with Hairston and any potential player brought in via the draft to start.

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