BBD Editor: Dan Hope
The Buffalo Bills have had arguably the NFL’s best defensive line this season, but there might be reason for concern with one of their starting defensive linemen heading into the 2014 offseason. For the second straight week, defensive tackle Marcell Dareus served an in-game suspension — this time for the entire first half against the New England Patriots — for a violation of team rules.
Dareus has had the best season to date of his three-year career, but the season certainly has not ended as either Dareus or the Bills would have hoped.
Specifically, Dareus was quoted by Chris Brown of BuffaloBills.com as saying his goal for Sunday’s game was to come up with 2.5 sacks on Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.
“We wanted to break the sack record. The single season sack record with the team. We want all the guys to get 10, they’re waiting on me now,” Dareus told Brown. “They’re going to try to get me free so I can get there. We reached all the goals, Kyle got his 10, Jerry got his 10, Mario has his 13—everything is coming together.”
Apparently everything didn’t come together for Dareus this week, as Bills coach Doug Marrone decided it the proper course of action for a second consecutive game to keep Dareus on the bench. While the team has not yet commented on Dareus’ specific transgression, CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora said the benching was for “chronic lateness.”
If Dareus wants to remain a key part of the Bills’ plans, it would behoove him to be more punctual. As Dareus said, his play on the field has come together this season, as he has been a key piece of Buffalo’s NFL-leading sack effort this season, including 7.5 sacks of his own in Buffalo’s first 15 games this season. That said, one would think the Bills will raise their expectations of Dareus’ behavior heading into the 2014 offseason.
While most players have to compete for their starting spots anyways, Dareus’ need to truly win his starting job back might be more legitimate going into the 2014 season after his behavior was deemed worthy of benching for two consecutive weeks. Still, it seems unlikely that the Bills would move on from Dareus for an issue that has only resulted in him missing three quarters of game action.
His recent violations could, however, have an impact on his long-term future with the team. While the Bills might have already planned to wait until after next season to decide upon Dareus’ future with the team, it seems less likely now that Buffalo would re-sign him to a long-term contract extension this offseason, which would leave him set to become an unrestricted free agent in 2014.
Given that the team re-signed interior defensive lineman Alan Branch to a three-year contract extension Monday, it seems Buffalo could at least preliminary be preparing for life without Dareus after the 2014 season. Buffalo’s No. 3 overall pick in the 2011 NFL draft has made an important impact on the Bills defense this season, but he is going to have to prove himself both on and off the field in 2014 for Buffalo, or any NFL team for that matter, to make a major long-term investment in his future.