Marcell Dareus has been disciplined by the current Buffalo Bills head coach, benched, and demoted. While it’s clear Dareus hasn’t bought into the process, it’s also clear that unloading the tackle will be a tough pill to swallow financially and the options just aren’t that good.
Releasing Dareus now
If Buffalo simply cut bait, they’d be on the hook for $14.2 million in salary cap money attributed to his signing bonus and option bonus. Those numbers, from OverTheCap.com, would be accelerated onto Buffalo’s 2018 cap. Because he is a vested veteran, Dareus would likely be entitled to his entire salary from the 2017 season even if he doesn’t finish the season on the roster. (That is, unless the Bills have sent Dareus written notice that he’s slacking off, something they likely should have done when they sent him home from a preseason game for being late. In that case, they’d only be on the hook for the $3.44 million they’ve already paid him in game checks.)
Trading Dareus now
The same problem pops up trying to trade Dareus now. Buffalo is on the hook for that signing bonus money and it’s accelerated if he’s no longer on the team. Another team can’t trade for straight salary cap space in the NFL, so it’s Buffalo’s baggage no matter what.
Releasing Dareus in 2018
If Buffalo waits until the offseason, they would still need to add that $14.2 million salary cap hit, but it would be a little easier to swallow. It gives Buffalo some flexibility, as they would be able to use the post-June 1 designation to spread it out over two years. In this second scenario, the cap savings would be about $2.5 million in 2018.
Trading Dareus in 2018
Waiting to trade Dareus opens up lots of salary cap possibilities for Buffalo. They could also use a post-June 1 trade designation to split the huge cap hit over two seasons, saving money on the cap in 2018.
The most positive outcome for everyone, the win-win-win scenario, is that Dareus gets his head in the game and plays out of his mind for the rest of the season and beyond, getting back to his All-Pro level. That would be very cool. Then he can keep earning bit paychecks, the Bills don’t have to replace him, and the fans can cheer for him again.
Editor’s note: an earlier version of this article incorrectly stated when the signing bonus money would be applied to Buffalo’s salary cap. The mistake has been corrected.