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Jerry Sullivan’s Mailbag: With new deal, pressure is on now for Dareus

It was another rousing week for the Mailbag, which was no surprise on the verge of the Bills’ opener. The mailbox really filled up after news of Marcell Dareus’ six-year, $100 million contract extension broke Thursday.

The wise guys were quick to remind me that I pushed for the Bills to cut Dareus after he smashed his car into a tree while street racing last year, one day after promising to stay out of trouble.

It’s a lot easier to lob online shots from your basement than to take a principled stand in a public forum in the moment. Am I supposed to apologize for being tough on Dareus after his multiple lapses of judgment? Does $100 million mute all criticism retroactively?

Not that I have anything against writing from the basement. I’m sure some of my best mail comes from people’s basements. Keep it coming. It’s the sort of vigorous exchange that makes life fun. I even tolerate it from Bucky.

Remember, the Mailbag will run weekly through the Bills and Sabres seasons. Submit your questions and comments via my Twitter (@TBNSully) or my company email (jsullivan@buffnews.com). Keep it reasonably civil. On to the mail:

@mattkopnak asks: Do you still think they should have cut Dareus as soon as his car hit the tree?

Sully: I know it seems rash now, but if I could go back to the day Dareus smashed his car – nearly driving it into a restaurant – I would say the same thing. After four incidents in a year, cut the guy.

The Bills made a sound business decision, the sort you have to make in a sport full of knuckleheads. They decided Dareus was worth the risk and would clean up his act. He behaved, had a Pro Bowl year, and got a new deal that included $60 million in guarantees, the most ever for a non-quarterback.

That’s a lot of money for a player who has demonstrated such dubious judgment in the past. The pressure is on Dareus to live up to the contract on and off the field, to be a model citizen and to perform like one of the top half dozen defensive players in the NFL.

It’s a big risk. The Bills have a ton of money invested in their defensive front, and they’d better live up to it. And isn’t is a great country when you can sign a $100 million deal, then have to sit out the next game because of bad behavior?

westwooddrive@yahoo.com asks: In light of the new details that became public in recent days, how could the influential owners of today’s NFL stand by and allow Spygate to be swept under the rug?

Sully: The reference is to a recent ESPN story from early this week, which claimed that Roger Goodell and the NFL destroyed incriminating evidence against the Patriots in the Spygate investigation seven years ago.

According to the ESPN investigation, it was Goodell’s lenient treatment of the Pats in Spygate that caused him to come down so hard on Tom Brady in the Deflategate scandal. It was a “makeup call” by the league.

The owners didn’t simply stand by during Spygate. Many of them were outraged by Goodell’s actions. But in the end, they were convinced that it was in the best interests of the NFL. As one unnamed team executive suggested, Goodell didn’t want the Pats’ record to be tainted because it was bad for business.

Protecting the shield matters most to the NFL. At times, it overrules common sense, which is one reason they keep botching these player suspensions. They seem more intested in public perception than consistency and truth.

@chazzjg32 asks: Thoughts on AFC East? Miami/Bills compete with them this year? Tough d lines for Brady to face 2x a year each.

Sully: It’s true that Buffalo and Miami have imposing defenses and appear to be gaining on the Pats. But I’ve learned to be suspicious of any perceived closing of the gap between New England and the rest of the division.

The Pats finished 12-4 or better five years in a row, despite some faltering starts. The Dolphins and Bills have finished at least three games out every season since 2008. Last year was the first time the Bills finished within three games of the Pats in the AFC East since 2002!

So the gap remains, though it might be narrowing. I picked the Dolphins to make the playoffs and the Bills to win nine games. But I picked the Pats to win at least 12 again and repeat as Super Bowl champions.

Adam Pomietlarz asks: I was wondering what the rule is for NFL players starting in games. Could Rex Ryan play a trick on the Colts where he announces that Tyrod is the starter but instead at game time, Matt Cassel starts the game?

Sully: There’s no rule that prevents you from changing your starting lineup before kickoff. But it wouldn’t be the wisest thing to practice all week with one starting QB, then pull a switch at gametime to fool the opponent.

Teams prepare for all scenarios. It would be more of a detriment to the team that wasted starter reps on the backup.

@deaner_10 asks: Sully, any trade chatter with the signing of Franson? 9 NHL Dmen on the team, including Pysyk and McCabe.

Sully: Don’t think so. As Sabres fans found out in 2006, you can never be too deep in defensemen. Cody Franson will be in the top four. This means Jake McCabe is probably ticketed to Rochester, and probably Chad Ruhwedel. Harrington figures Mark Pysyk will be in the third pairing with Mike Weber.

Stan Pikul asks: If you could play a round with Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day or Rickie Fowler, who would it be? And where would you want to play?

Sully: Tough call, but I have to go with Fowler. After making a hole-in-one on his final hole at the Quicken Loans National in late July, Fowler sent a cooler of cold beer to the reporters in the Media Center. If you notice a lack of critical commentary about Fowler in the press, now you know why.

The round would have to be on the Old Course at St. Andrews. I went to Scotland for my honeymoon three years ago and didn’t get to St Andrews. Hey, I just noticed there’s no period after the St in St Andrews!

email: jsullivan@buffnews.com