The prevailing question among Detroit Lions fans after every free agent signing has been, “Does he play linebacker?” Finally, the answer to that question is yes. The Lions announced on Monday morning they have signed former 49ers linebacker Nick Bellore.
Lions have signed LB Nick Bellore— Tim Twentyman (@ttwentyman) April 3, 2017
According to Adam Caplan, it is a one-year deal.
Bellore is a former Central Michigan Chippewa and went undrafted in 2011. He spent the first four years of his professional career with the New York Jets, appearing in every single game, but was never promoted to a starter. Rather, he was a special teams ace for the team. In four seasons, Bellore picked up 61 tackles with the Jets and was even named to Pro Football Focus’ All-Pro Special Team in 2014. Before the Jets eventually let him go, they tried him out briefly as a fullback.
When he landed in San Francisco, he took on the special teams role with the 49ers. But in 2016, he was promoted to starter when NaVorro Bowman tore his achilles. He ended up starting 10 games, finishing with 83 tackles, 1.0 sacks, one interception and one forced fumble as the 49ers starting middle linebacker. For what it’s worth, Pro Football Focus ranked him 61st out of 87 qualifying linebackers in 2016 (Josh Bynes was 58th).
Bellore is praised for his intelligence in the game. He scored a 36 on the Wonderlic test and Rex Ryan once called him “one of the smartest guys in the league.”
In Detroit, he will provide valuable depth while adding special teams value. That’s what we call the Bob Quinn special. But there’s a chance Bellore could grow into something beyond that. The Lions don’t exactly have great starters at linebacker, and if Bellore looks good in camp, he could certainly compete for a spot among the starting lineup, especially if the Lions don’t add a starting-level talent in the draft. However, this ultimately looks like a depth and special teams signing from general manager Bob Quinn.