PHILADELPHIA - Credit Jason Peters for helping the Eagles land his temporary replacement.
After informing the Eagles last week that he had ruptured his right Achilles' tendon while training in Texas, the five-time Pro Bowl left tackle called free agent Demetress Bell and urged him to consider joining the Eagles.
Bell, who had become friends with Peters when both played for Buffalo, complied by signing a five-year contract on Thursday morning.
"Jason is one of the big reasons I came here," Bell said Thursday during a news conference at the NovaCare Complex. "I talk to him all the time because he's my friend. We both decided (signing with the Eagles) would be the best situation for me. Me and Jason are really close, and I'm sure whatever I need or whatever I want, I can go to him."
Their relationship dates back to 2008, when the Bills drafted Bell in the seventh round. Bell, who hadn't played organized football until his second year of college at Northwestern State (La.), arrived at the Bills' first minicamp as a raw, naive project.
When Bell asked the coaching staff for advice, an assistant pointed to Peters, who was coming off the first of five straight Pro Bowl appearances, and said, "That's who you keep up with and that's whose coattails you hang onto."
"Jason was like a big brother. He didn't take me in when I first got there, but he saw me work and work. Then, he took me in and showed me the dos and don'ts. Me and him have a great relationship right now because of that."
Bell, 6-foot-5 and 311 pounds, got a late start with football. The 27-year-old originally went to Northwestern State on a basketball scholarship in hopes of following in the footsteps of his estranged father, legendary NBA star Karl Malone.
Malone and Bell's mother, Gloria Bell, grew up together in Summerfield, La., but Malone has no relationship with Demetress.
Northwestern State's football coaches finally convinced him to try the sport during his second year of college. He stood on the sideline for almost an entire season, before a defensive end got hurt in the last game.
"I was just supposed to stand on the sidelines and watch the whole year," Bell said. "But when a defensive end got hurt, I was the next guy up. I played in my first game ever that day and had 11 tackles and a sack. The next year, our left tackle got hurt and everyone voted for me (to replace him) and that's how I became a left tackle."
He played well enough for the Bills to draft him and played well enough as Peters' replacement in Buffalo to draw considerable interest from other teams during free agency.
The Eagles outbid Pittsburgh, Dallas and Buffalo, among other teams.
"Welcome to the family," Eagles left guard Evan Mathis told Bell via Twitter. "Your blood is now green."
The Eagles were not really entertaining the thought of signing him until Peters got hurt. They entertained Bell at the NovaCare Complex last weekend, where offensive line coach Howard Mudd not only explained the Eagles' blocking scheme, but also convinced Bell to change the spelling of his name.
Mudd and Peters were having dinner last Sunday when Mudd asked him how to pronounce his name. That prompted Bell, who had always spelled it Demetrius, to check his birth certificate, where he discovered that it was actually Demetress.
"You make me feel like Chad Ochocinco (Johnson)," Bell said with a laugh. "It wasn't that big a deal. The ending was 'tress' on my birth certificate, but I had never paid attention and had been spelling it 'trius.' It's not a big deal. I just wanted to correct it and get it right. I fixed it now."
He's going to be counted on to fix an Eagles offensive line that will be missing its top player in Peters, who was considered the best left tackle in the NFL.
How long he's there is up in the air. Although Bell signed a five-year contract, only the first season is guaranteed. Peters is expected to make a full recovery and could return as soon as later this season. The Eagles are also set at right tackle, having signed Todd Herremans to a three-year extension that lasts through 2016.
"Whatever they want me to do, I'll do," Bell said. "I haven't given any thought as to down the road and where I want to be. I'm taking it one day at a time. But whatever happens, this is a business and we both understand that. Whatever happens on the back side, I'm sure we'll be friends at the end of the day."
Notes: The Eagles may have tipped their hand Thursday with their plans for the upcoming draft.
Memphis defensive tackle Dontari Poe was at the NovaCare Complex visiting with Eagles defensive line coach Jim Washburn.
Poe is considered a top-10 draft pick. Pro Football Weekly's mock draft has the 6-foot-3, 346-pounder going to Carolina at No. 9. The Eagles, who hold the 15th pick, would have to move up to grab him.
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