Just days before the end of the preseason, Buffalo Bills general manager told 7ABC that in reference to defensive tackle Marcell Dareus — the highest paid player on the roster — he wasn’t sure if he has bought in to the type of team and locker room he and head coach Sean McDermott are trying to build. That was just days removed from Dareus being sent home by the team ahead of the road game against the Baltimore Ravens.
It’s been over three weeks since that point, and we’ve seen Dareus suffer an injury, and we’ve seen his time on the field — specifically in key situations — cut down from what we’ve been used to with Dareus. It’s been a festering situation for weeks, and one that clearly doesn’t have a solution at the moment.
That was reinforced late this week, with Sean McDermott’s newest comments about the defensive tackle. When asked by NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero about if Dareus is showing the “urgency” that the head coach would like to see, McDermott’s response is notable.
"At times. I'm going to be very honest about it -- at times. At other times, not really," McDermott said to Pelissero. "This bus is moving and at the end of this year, we're going to have a pretty good feel for who's on the bus and who's not, and everyone knows that, I would hope. So, I would hope they've seen that from the moves we've made and the direction we're heading, the mindset we're embracing and the devoted mindset you need to have to win in this league. We're going in a certain direction for a certain reason, and we play and do things with a purpose. People that have that common purpose and want to share that common purpose, they'll be here."
This statement stands out, because normally McDermott makes it a point to not say things like this about players on his team. It doesn’t remove the complexity of the situation, though.
Dareus is, of course, the highest-paid player on the team, and with years remaining on his deal, the salary cap ramifications over this year and the next to outright release him are abundant — which is likely a strong reason as to why there is no conclusion at this point in time.
The Bills want to see Dareus buy in to what they’re doing, but aren’t afraid to cut bait if Dareus isn’t buying in. In August, GM Brandon Beane told 7ABC that any player that isn’t buying into the program they’re trying to establish, regardless of cap ramifications, that they’ll find a way to remove that player from the roster.
Dareus, 27, would carry a dead money cap hit of around $22 million if the Bills kept him through the end of the year, only to release him following the conclusion of the season. Including the 2017 season, Dareus still has four years remaining on his current contract.