Bills Bring Back Former OL for Workout After Brandon Shell Retires

The Buffalo Bills quickly went to work to fill a hole left by offensive lineman Brandon Shell’s sudden retirement on August 16, hosting two linemen for workouts within hours of his decision.

As The Athletic’s Joe Buscaglia reported on Tuesday, Shell was absent from practice and intends to retire from the NFL after seven seasons. Shell joined the Bills in May as a free agent addition, and looked to compete for a starting spot on the line for the coming season.

Bills OT Brandon Shell has been placed on reserve/retired list

— Around The NFL (@AroundTheNFL) August 15, 2023

While the team had not yet addressed the plans to make up for Shell’s sudden departure, they did hold a workout for two potential additions to the line. As Aaron Wilson of KPRC reported, the Bills hosted Quinton Barrow and Garrett McGhinn, who had previously spent some time with the Bills but fell short of making the roster.

Bills Look at Potential Replacements

The Bills and head coach Sean McDermott are familiar with McGhinn, who spent time in Buffalo for two separate training camps. He was signed with the team in August 2019 and competed in training camp for a spot on the active roster, but released before the season started.

The 6-foot-6 offensive lineman then spent parts of the next two seasons with the Carolina Panthers, appearing in two games in the 2019 season, before being released and joining the Bills again briefly in the summer of 2020.

McGhinn spent the next two seasons on practice squads before joining the XFL’s Arlington Renegades in the fall.

Barrow is a rookie out of Grand Valley State. USA Today’s Jeff Risdon wrote that Barrow could have the potential to play a backup role in the NFL.

“Barrow has the measurables at 6-5/335 with long arms and big hands, and he plays with a style that suggests more of a streetfight than a football game,” Risdon wrote. “He needs some technical polish and won’t ever be agile, but Barrow should make it as a reserve tackle/guard with some upside.”

Bills Expected to Bring in More Help

While McGhinn and Barrow may not have the experience to compete for a starting job — and neither were signed by the Bills on Tuesday — Buscaglia believes the team will likely look “outside the organization to help” after Shell’s retirement.

“But the tough part for the Bills at this point of the summer is that offensive tackle is one of the most difficult positions to find in today’s NFL,” he wrote. “It requires a very specific skill set that has to deal with so many shapes, sizes and speeds of defensive players, and needing the quickness to cover a lot of ground with no one outside of them. Teams aren’t often in a hurry to give up on an offensive tackle who can play unless they have an embarrassment of riches there.”

Buscaglia concluded that veteran Bills lineman David Quessenberry is the most likely candidate to take over Shell’s role as reserve swing tackle. The Bills relied heavily on their line depth last season after a spate of injuries, and starting tackle Spencer Brown has already had an injury scare in training camp.

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