When former Buffalo Bills general manager Doug Whaley signed defensive tackle Marcell Dareus to a six-year contract extension with $60 million guaranteed in September 2015, he did so with confidence that Dareus had matured after discipline problems late in the 2013 season, a pair of arrests in 2014 and a resulting one-game NFL suspension in 2015.
Since Dareus inked that deal almost two years ago, he was suspended for the first four games of the 2016 season for another NFL substance-abuse policy violation and, on Saturday night, was sent home from the Bills’ preseason game in Baltimore for an unspecified team rule violation.
Dareus’ documented off-field issues now span five seasons and three coaching staffs in Buffalo — those of Doug Marrone, Rex Ryan and Sean McDermott. His pattern of behavior might have been tolerated by previous management in Buffalo, but the Bills’ current pairing of McDermott and general manager Brandon Beane values day-to-day discipline among players and seems less willing to let infractions slide.
Beane, who replaced the fired Whaley in May, was asked Saturday if he was considering options to move Dareus off the roster.
“No, but everybody’s got to be on board right now, so hopefully this is something he’ll learn from and everybody will understand the message that Sean and I are [sending],” Beane said. “We have expectations, we have standards that everybody has to live by, and if you’re not [going to], then you’re not going to be here.”
Judging by Beane’s final statement, the possibility of Dareus not remaining on the team in the long term seems to exist. But if the Bills ever consider such a move — especially this season or next season — there would be massive salary-cap consequences because of Dareus’ gigantic contract.
Here is a look at the financial impact of releasing or trading Dareus within the next year:
Releasing Dareus this season. The most extreme measure the Bills could take would be to release Dareus this season. His cap number for 2017 is $16.1 million, the highest on the team. Because his base salary is fully guaranteed, that entire amount would remain against the Bills’ salary cap as “dead money” if he were to be released this season. In addition, the Bills would be on the hook in 2017 for the fully guaranteed portion ($7.35 million) of his 2018 salary, meaning his total 2017 dead-money charge would be an unwieldy $23.5 million. The Bills would also incur a $14.2 million dead-money charge in 2018 resulting from the acceleration of his signing bonus proration. Essentially, it would be more expensive against the Bills’ salary cap the next two seasons to release him ($37.7 million) than to keep him ($32.7 million).
Trading Dareus this season. 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.
Releasing Dareus prior to next season. If the Bills released Dareus before June 1, 2018, they would incur a $21.6 million dead-money charge in 2018 resulting from his $7.35 million in guaranteed salary and $14.2 million in accelerated signing bonus proration. That would be more expensive than Dareus’ existing $16.575 million cap number in 2018. However, there would be no dead money charge in 2019 under that scenario. If the Bills waited until after June 1 to release Dareus — or designated him as a post-June 1 cut at an earlier date — the Bills would still be on the hook for $14 million of Dareus’ $16.575 million cap number in 2018. They would then incur a $7.8 million dead-money charge in 2019.
Trading Dareus prior to next season. Dealing Dareus prior to June 1 would result in a $14.2 million dead-money charge against the Bills’ 2018 salary cap, a slight savings over his $16.575 million cap number. If Dareus was dealt after June 1, 2018, it would result in a $6.4 million dead-money charge in 2018 and a $7.8 million dead-money charge in 2019.
If the Bills decided to part ways with Dareus in the short term — and Beane suggested that is not yet in the team’s thinking — their only realistic option would be to find a trade partner who would be willing to take on the fully guaranteed portions of his salary. Otherwise, the salary-cap impacts of releasing Dareus this season would be untenable.
The Bills’ next chance to get out of Dareus’ deal would be in June, at which point the dead-money impacts of releasing or trading him would become more viable under the salary cap.
For now, expect McDermott and Beane to find a way to make things work with Dareus on their team.
“Obviously, a guy with his contract status, you would hope that he would be a better leader than that,” Beane said Saturday, “and hopefully he learns from it and moves on and just be a Buffalo Bill.”