For the first time since Week Two of the season, Marcell Dareus was a member of the starting defense for the Buffalo Bills on Sunday. And for the first time since the first week of the season, Dareus played over 50-percent of defensive snaps versus Tampa Bay.
And even with a victory on Sunday — and with Sean McDermott commenting how pleased he was with the week of practice from Dareus — the Bills seem eager to move on from Dareus according to the latest report.
According to Jason LaCanfora of CBSSports.com, the Bills are “quite open” to trading Dareus ahead of the October 31 deadline and that other teams in the NFL know that the player can be had. The report also indicates that the Bills were looking to move the former star defensive tackle ahead of the roster cutdown day in September, but was deemed “untradeable by other teams given his off-field woes and massive contract.”
The Bills have dealt with their fair share of off-field transgressions with Dareus even before the combination of head coach Sean McDermott and general manager Brandon Beane came to town, and it all came to a head once the player showed up late to the team’s preseason game in Baltimore.
According to the report, if the Bills are unable to move on from Dareus ahead of the trade deadline, they’re intent on releasing him following the season, using the June 1st-designation, and dispersing the hefty cap hit over the 2018 and 2019 seasons. That is, in LaCanfora’s words, “barring a complete turnaround in his play and attitude.”
Dareus is the highest paid player on the team and holds a cap number of just over $16 million in 2017. He has a total of four years remaining on his contract.
Joe B’s Take
Is anyone surprised? I’m certainly not, and this is the way the situation has been heading since the summer ended.
Following Dareus getting to the stadium late in Baltimore, and promptly being sent home by the Bills, I had the opportunity to speak with GM Brandon Beane in a 1-on-1 interview ahead of the preseason finale in August if you’ll recall. A good portion of the conversation dealt with Dareus, and Beane even said that he wasn’t sure if Dareus had bought into the program that he and McDermott were trying to implement.
My follow-up question was simple. If Dareus doesn’t buy in, would the team try to move on from him?
“Yeah, any player that's not buying in, we'll find a way to move on without him.”
This was taped in the week leading up to the Lions game, and less than a week before the NFL had to cut their rosters down to 53 players — so basically, right smack dab in the middle of the timeline LaCanfora is referring to as to when the Bills were trying to trade Dareus this summer.
It really just makes sense.
This is not the type of coach and GM to bluff about wanting accountability within the locker room, and an attitude that will help others be great around them — and we’ve seen the Bills knock Dareus down in playing time due to poor effort during games. In the five games he’s played, Dareus has taken exactly 40.12-percent of available defensive snaps to him — which is a shockingly low number for not just the highest paid player on the team, but one that used to be held in such high esteem.
Even his play on the field hasn’t been what we came to know him as. He’s gone from a game plan wrecking force in the middle of the defense to “just a guy,” with the tease of a great play out of the blue. Those flash plays used to be commonplace. Now, they’re an anomaly.
Simply put, his all-encompassing effort, play level, and time spent on the field are in no way indicative of the highest paid player on the team. As a player with that stature, this regime wants that player to be someone to be a leader on and off the field, and that certainly hasn’t been Dareus’ strong suit in 2017.
For what it’s worth, McDermott seemed encouraged about Dareus in his comments after the win over Tampa Bay, but the key now is “will this stick?” Reputations are born after time spent together, and there is a long time to go before the end of the 2017 season.
Just as it’s always been, it’s on Marcell Dareus now. If he truly wants to be a member of the Bills in 2018 and perhaps beyond, it appears the fork in the road is here according to the latest report. It’s up to him and whether or not he wants to shape up, and if he doesn’t, the Bills will have no problem with shipping him out of Buffalo for good.