KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Chiefs turned to a local product in addressing their need for an experienced backup tight end, signing free agent and Wichita native Blake Bell to a contract on Tuesday.
Bell, who spent the 2018 season with the Jacksonville Jaguars, expects to keep with Deon Yelder and David Wells for the backup positions behind starter Travis Kelce. The 27-year-old Bell grew up in Wichita, and threw for 2,752 yards and 32 touchdowns as a quarterback at Bishop Carroll Catholic High School. The Detroit Tigers selected Bell in the 43rd round of the Major League Baseball draft in 2010, but he chose to play football at Oklahoma.
His uncle Mike Bell played with the Chiefs
Bell is a Kansas City legacy, following in the footsteps of his uncle Mike, who spent 12 seasons with the Chiefs from 1979 to 1991. His uncle also attended Bishop Carroll and then attended Colorado State. The Chiefs selected the elder Bell with No. 2 overall pick in the 1979 NFL Draft. Bell played 135 games for the Chiefs as a defensive end, registering 40 sacks in eight seasons after the NFL began tracking the statistic. He picked up a career-best 13 and a half sacks in 1984.
His father Mark Bell — Mike's twin brother — was a fourth-round selection of the 1979 draft by the Seattle Seahawks. Mark spent five seasons in the league with Seattle, Baltimore and Indianapolis as a defensie end, playing in 64 games with two starts.
How "The Belldozer" earned his nickname
Bell arrived on campus at Oklahoma not as a tight end, but as a quarterback. The Sooners used him short-yardage situations, especially near the goal line, with the "Belldozer" package referring to the jumbo set with Bell in the backfield. He rushed 181 times for 631 yards in his college career, including 24 touchdowns.
He backed up Landry Jones his first two seasons, then battled with Trevor Knight for the starting job his junior year. He completed 60 percent of his passes for 1,648 yards and 12 touchdowns with five interceptions compiling a 6-2 record as a starter.
Moving to tight end his senior season Oklahoma
Knight won the quarterback battle at the end of the 2013 season, so Bell made the move to tight end. The position change off, even though Bell posted pedestrian numbers with 16 catches for 214 yards as a senior. But the potential showed enough to scouts during the season and at the NFL Combine, where he topped all tight ends in the three-cone drill and ranked second in the 20-yard shuttle. The San Francisco 49ers selected Bell in the fourth round of the 2015 draft.
Promising rookie campaign in 2015
Bell joined a 49ers tight end group that included Vernon Davis, Garrett Celek and Vance McDonald. He won the club's fourth tight end spot, but injuries soon moved him up the depth chart. He played 14 games as a rookie with five starts, hauling in 15 passes for 186 yards. He moved up to No. 2 on the depth chart for the 49ers in 2016, but caught just four passes for 85 yards. A shoulder injury in September ending his season in December.
The 49ers released Bell during the final cutdown for the 2017 season, but he landed with the Minnesota Vikings. Bell played in 13 games with three starts, hauling in three passes for 19 yards. The Vikings released Bell ahead of the 2018 season, yet he caught on with Jacksonville and caught eight passes for 67 yards.
Bell has played special teams extensively the past three season, playing between 30 to 40 percent of the total special teams snaps for his clubs.
Joining Oklahoma teammates in Kansas City
When Bell started at quarterback during his junior season at Oklahoma, he shared a backfield with two current Chiefs teammates. Running back Damien Williams rushed for 553 yards and seven touchdowns during the Sooners' Sugar Bowl-winning season. Bell later attended the 2015 NFL Combine with Sooners fullback Aaron Ripkowski, who also signed as a free agent with the Chiefs during the offseason. Long snapper James Winchester also played with Bell at Oklahoma for two seasons.