Buffalo Bills defensive tackle Marcell Dareus had 1 tackle, 0 sacks and 0 QB hurries in 2017. That’s not the stat line of a guy with a contract that sucks down $16+ million of the salary cap. It’s not even the stat line of a reserve DT but rather something one would expect of a dedicated special teamer who nominally plays some defensive position. Add to the lack of production and fat contract the fact that head coach Sean McDermott has sounded less than thrilled with Dareus and rumors that Dareus hasn’t “bought in” to the new defensive system.
Oh, and then there’s the not-so-inconsequential factor of general manager Brandon Beane’s willingness to ship big name players off to new cities for draft picks and/or other players.
Trading Dareus before this season would result in a cap savings of $9.75 million in 2017 -- Dareus' base salary -- but a $14.2 million dead-money charge in 2018 from the acceleration of his signing bonus proration. Given that the Bills could roll over the $9.75 million in 2017 savings into their 2018 cap, the dead money could be palatable. However, any team acquiring Dareus in a trade would be taking on risk by inheriting the 2017-21 seasons of his deal. In addition to Dareus' fully guaranteed $9.75 million salary in 2017, his new team would be on the hook for the fully guaranteed portion ($7.35 million) of his $9.925 million salary in 2018, as well as non-guaranteed salaries of $8.335 million (2019), $12.35 million (2020) and $12.4 million (2021). If any team was willing to take on that contract, the risk would cost the Bills in the trade compensation that team would receive.
According to that breakdown, the Bills would save a little under $10 million this season but be on the hook for about $14 next season. In other words, the Bills would be out about $4.5 million which isn’t exactly an unreasonable amount. The new team would be on the hook for a shade under $20 million over the next two seasons before either cutting the cord or picking up about $33 million the next 3 seasons. While big numbers, they aren’t insurmountable.
Tennessee could use a running mate for Jurrell Casey and will have something like $100 million in cap space next season. The Saints were counting on Nick Fairley but he wound up dealing with a heart condition. Seattle’s defense has been among the worst in the league at stopping the run, though they are several slots above the last place Jaguars—a team whose head coach knows Dareus. The point is that there may be several teams with some degree of interest in acquiring Marcell Dareus from the Bills.
That would only happen, of course, if the price is right. Beane has shown that he’s willing to trade marquee players for what seem to be drop offs in talent. He’s also shown that he’s willing to string together multiple trades. A willingness to trade Dareus for picks or players opens a lot of doors. Buffalo could look to bring in help at linebacker, likely some player Bills fans aren’t familiar with like E.J. Gaines, along with a 2018 draft pick. Likewise, Beane could “trade up” by shipping Dareus and a pick to some team for a wide receiver that Bills players have definitely heard, someone who would headline what is now a completely lackluster unit.
If Beane can get what he believes to be enough in return for Dareus, Bills fans shouldn’t be surprised to see him in some other uniform.