The linebacker position is one of the hardest to crack with the Cincinnati Bengals this year.
That’s the task undrafted rookie Brandon Bell is facing this year. Where does he stand on the depth chart, and does he have a realistic shot at making the 53-man roster? Let’s take a look at his past to assess his future.
Weight: 229 pounds
College: Penn State
Hometown: Mays Landing, N.J.
Bell is signed to a 3-year, $1,665,000 contract with the Bengals. In 2017, Bell will have a cap hit of $465,000 if he makes the final roster, per Spotrac.
One of the Bengals’ most notable undrafted free agent signings this year was Penn State defender Brandon Bell. After a standout career with the Nittany Lions, Bell is looking to become the school’s latest NFL linebacker produced and join the likes of NaVorro Bowman, Paul Posluszny, Gerald Hodges, Tamba Hali, Michael Mauti and Sean Lee among others.
Bell’s shining moment of 2016 came vs second-ranked Ohio State, as he racked up 18 tackles and one sack in an upset win over the Buckeyes. For his efforts, Bell was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week and the Bednarik Award Player of the Week.
Bell had another monster game vs Michigan State with 18 tackles effort and one sack. He was again named the Walter Camp National Defensive Player of the Week and became just the eighth Nittany Lion to earn the honor since 2004.
For the season, Bell recorded 89 tackles, four sacks, two interceptions and three forced fumbles in just 10 games (he missed four games due to injury). During his four-year career, Bell finished with 226 total tackles, 27 tackles for loss, 11.5 sacks, four interceptions and seven forced fumbles.
Penn State defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Brent Pry has seen and coached a number of special players in his career, but Bell was of the best he’s ever seen.
“Brandon Bell is one of the most instinctive players that I have coached,” said Pry. “He is not going to wow you on the record board, but when it comes to game film, I am not sure that I have coached a better player that recognizes and plays anticipative defense the way that Brandon does. He is a true gamer.”
That kind of praise from a coach at a school that produces a wealth of NFL linebackers would seemingly bode well for Bell, but despite his production, he went undrafted this year.
Bell quietly had a solid training camp with the Bengals, but he’s still facing some long odds of cracking the final roster. He’s currently fighting with Marquis Flowers, P.J. Dawson, Jordan Evans and Hardy Nickerson for the Bengals’ final one or two linebacker spots.
Flowers, Evans and Dawson are recent draft picks of the Bengals, but Bell will have his chance to unseat them for a roster spot. He played 18 snaps in the Bengals’ preseason opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but recorded no stats in the box score. He’ll need to stand out more in the coming preseason contests to make a name for himself and push toward making the 53-man roster.
Odds: 10 percent.