It’s long been talked about since the day defensive tackle Marcell Dareus showed up late to the Buffalo Bills’ third preseason game of 2017 in Baltimore and was promptly sent home: Dareus and the Bills are no longer involved with one another.
The Bills have traded the former star defensive tackle Dareus, and highest paid player on the team, to the Jacksonville Jaguars. In return, they’ve collected a sixth-round selection in the 2018 NFL Draft — and more important, financial flexibility into the future without long-term ramifications.
Dareus is reunited with former Bills head coach Doug Marrone, who is now the head man in Jacksonville — a team that boasts one of the best defenses in the league through the first seven weeks.
Speaking with reporters the night of the trade, Bills GM Brandon Beane said they were not actively shopping Dareus, but that the Jaguars called that day and the conversations continued until a deal was done.
The Bills will still be on the hook on the salary cap for the next two seasons but are no longer financially responsible for 2019, 2020, and 2021 — the final three years of his contract. However, how much do the Bills save over the next two years? This from ESPN’s Mike Rodak:
The Bills will save $5.73 million off their 2017 salary cap and $2.375 million off their 2018 salary cap. 2019-21 years get wiped out.
— Mike Rodak (@mikerodak) October 27, 2017
With the trade, the Bills now have nine guaranteed draft picks in 2018: two firsts, two seconds, two thirds, one fourth, one fifth, and now one sixth-round pick. The Bills’ original sixth-round selection was traded to the Los Angeles Rams as part of the Sammy Watkins - E.J Gaines trade.
Joe B’s Take
If you’ve been paying attention since the summer, you’ll know this: the writing has been on the wall for some time with Marcell Dareus and his future with the Buffalo Bills.
The one thing that sticks out, more than anything, is when I spoke to Bills GM Brandon Beane just days removed from Dareus showing up late to the Baltimore game and then being sent home. I asked him if he believed Dareus had bought into what they were doing there, his initial reply was “I don’t know.”
Upon hearing that, I asked Beane that even throughout all the salary cap implications that would come about from moving the defensive tackle, would the Bills still be open to doing so if Dareus had not bought in? His response:
“Yeah, any player that's not buying in, we'll find a way to move on without him.”
And he meant it.
It was clear then, and with just days to go ahead of the October 31st trade deadline the Bills finally got a commitment from an opposing team and did what they’ve likely wanted to do since the day they sent him home early from Baltimore: getting him off the roster.
Some will sit there and say they barely got anything for Dareus with only a sixth-round pick. However, if you have to know anything about this current regime, know this:
Harmony within the locker room, accountability, and buying into the ever-changing culture at One Bills Drive is an outright requirement these days — and it’s something that Dareus just simply did not provide to the Bills, head coach Sean McDermott, and the rest of the staff.
They are trying to change what has ailed the Bills over the past several seasons — no matter who it is or what department they work in. They walked in and felt a change was needed, and Dareus is one of the starkest reminders of that fact.
So, only getting a sixth-round pick is underscored by a more important fact: now they have financial flexibility, and one of the biggest name players that struggled to fit into the new culture is no longer a concern for them as they go forward.
We’ve seen Dareus’ role with the Bills change from being a star under the last two head coaches to just another guy with the current one. He started the first two games but was taken off the field in key situations. When he came back from injury, he was demoted to a bench player for two weeks and collected snap percentages under 50-percent.
It wasn’t until last week, when Dareus had a “great week of practice,” that they elevated him to a starting player — but he still played under 60-percent of the defensive snaps. To his credit, it was his best performance of the season to this point.
However, I wondered then if it was an effort to try and boost his value ahead of the trade deadline, and whether or not that was the intent, it got the job done for the Bills.
For the money he was making, the output on the field and the overall production just didn’t match up. As the weeks went on, it became more and more clear.
In the long-term, for what the Bills are trying to do, they get a highly paid player off of the roster that they just didn’t fully believe in. And at the same time, it sends a message to the rest of the roster that no one is safe, and that they have to show they are committed to — for the lack of a better term — “the process.”
If Dareus turns it around — to which he still can — then we can look back on this trade and wonder if it was too soon. However, it was clear — especially when Brandon Beane told reporters Friday night that they would have likely discussed Dareus’ future in the offseason had he still been here: it meant more to them to not have him on the roster into the future than to keep him around through the rest of 2017.
It’s a bold trade, but just a friendly reminder: these aren’t the same Buffalo Bills anymore.