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90 Players in 90 Days: Buffalo Bills DT Marcell Dareus

The man has talent. He also has discipline issues.

When the Buffalo Bills fired Rex Ryan last year and replaced him with Sean McDermott, one of the cliches that was repeated ad nauseam was the idea of a “culture change” in the locker room. The poster child for that movement was a veteran defensive tackle that the Bills picked third overall in one of the best draft classes of all-time. He has the talent to back that placement up, but his head is in the clouds to such an extent that he’s having serious trouble delivering on his potential. He’s a game-changer, so long as he’s in the game.

Name: Marcell Dareus
# 99
Position: DT
Height/Weight: 6’3”, 331 lbs.
Experience: 7
College: Alabama
Draft: Round 1, Pick 3 by the Buffalo Bills (2011)

Financial Situation (per Spotrac): This is kind of a tricky one, and it’s the reason that Dareus isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. He signed a six-year deal back in 2015 that included $60 million in guaranteed money.

In 2017, he carries a cap hit of $16.4 million and a dead cap hit of $38.35 million, which means that the Bills would add almost $22 million on to their 2017 cap if they were to release or trade him. Since the team doesn’t have that much cap space, they’d have to release other players just to get under the cap before signing more players to back-fill all of those roster spots.

Things are a little more promising in 2018. Trading Dareus next offseason would lower their cap figure by $2.375 million, or they could go the more extreme route and designate him as a post-June 1 release. That would save $2.175 million next year, but would also carry almost $8 million in dead money into 2019. An outright release isn’t feasible until 2019, when the cap savings would be around $10 million without a trade or June 1 designation.

Like it or not, Dareus isn’t going anywhere for at least another year.

2016 Recap: After serving a four-game suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy last year, Dareus missed four more games with a litany of injuries, the most prominent of which was a hamstring injury that shelved him for three games immediately after the end of his suspension.

In the eight games he did play, Dareus was still a force on the field. He registered 39 tackles (24 solo) and 3 12 sacks, registering season-highs of eight tackles and two sacks in the Bills’ 28-21 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 12.

Positional Outlook: The Bills aren’t quite overflowing with talent on the interior defensive line. Kyle Williams is 34, and Corbin Bryant (who started in place of Dareus for most of last year) is now on the New York Giants (albeit on injured reserve). Adolphus Washington and Jerel Worthy are the most likely fill-ins if Dareus misses any more time.

2017 Offseason: Things actually started out pretty quiet on the Dareus front. His name popped up when Sean McDermott hired ex-Marine Mike Waufle to coach the defensive line as a reminder of the culture change that was taking place in the new regime. He missed a couple days of camp with a hamstring injury, but all seemed well until Saturday. Dareus was held out of the loss to the Baltimore Ravens for a rules violation despite the supposed turnaround in his behavior and, well, here we are.

2017 Season Outlook: It seems like Dareus was held out of the game for showing up late to the stadium, which is never a good look. We’ve all been late to work before, but when you have a new boss and a history like Dareus does it’s not too much to ask to show up on time. We can only hope that this actually is a wake-up call, because Dareus is a seriously talented player who at the very least could net a big return in a trade if he can show what he can do. He just needs to stay on the field.