Yes, Byron Bell at LT scares me. It is the main reason why I am furious at Gettleman for not either signing Greg Hardy to a long term deal or trading him and using the cap room to sign a free agent LT. But here is the deal:
1. You are not going to find a LT capable of starting in the NFL (meaning that much better than Bell) at this point in the offseason. You are going to find old guys, injured guys, other teams' problems, backups, and guys whose true position is not LT. Getting a guy who is not that much better than Bell is just making a move for the sake of making it. And the fact that no one really wants to see Bell move back to RT - which is what would happen were the Panthers to sign a stopgap LT - makes it even more so.
2. You can find a decent (meaning better than Bell last year and better than a 2nd year undrafted college DT who struggled mightily at RG last year after being elevated from the practice squad) RT at this point in the season though. Simple: RTs are not as highly valued as LTs. RTs are honestly not even as valued as centers (it is just that there are not many truly good centers). And there are more OGs who can play RT than OGs (or even RTs) who can play LT. (It is curious ... why not let Garry Williams have a shot at RT?)
3. LT is a pass-blocking position. But RT is a run-blocking position. As a running QB, pass blocking is not as important to Cam Newton as it is for, say, Eli Manning or Joe Flacco. And considering the talent on the team at WR and TE (Olsen and a bunch of career backups plus Benjamin) the passing game will not be a featured part of the offense anyway. But getting a capable running attack (meaning a RB who gets 1000 yards and at least 7-8 TDs and the RBs averaging 4 yards per carry collectively) is very important. With the type of offense that the Panthers are running, Kalil plus improved play at OG (we hope) the Panthers can have a very good between the tackle running game IF the OTs can take care of the edge. Now being the LT, Bell will be blocking the opposing team's best pass rusher, and those guys are generally not a factor in playing the run. But the RDE is generally as good as getting in the backfield to disrupt the running game as he is at rushing the passer.
Now finding a good pass blocking RT? Forget it. But Cam and the Panthers' offense don't need that. It won't be Eli Manning and Joe Flacco throwing the ball 30 times a game for 4000 yards, with a lot of those being deep and vertical routes. The Panthers are going to keep the ball on the ground with a lot of quick, intermediate type passes to the TEs and (bigger, more physical) possession WRs with the occasional shot downfield. Yeah, I know, boring enough to make paint dry, but it should do a reasonably good job of putting points on the board and keeping Cam upright.
But a decent run-blocking OT, a mauler like David Stewart (he is hurt but a guy LIKE him) should be available. Failing that, a swing OG/OT type who can hold his own in the running game (like Garry Williams) should be. If the Panthers do this, they could have run blockers at 4 of the positions on the OL, with the liability at run blocking at the position where run blocking least matters.
Hopefully Gettleman sees this the same way. Or failing that, Rivera if he decides to make Garry Williams the starting RT.