The Buffalo Bills’ defense hasn’t missed a beat without Marcell Dareus.
The Bills rank in the top five in points allowed per game (fifth, 17.2) and 12th in yards (345.2), a big reason the team is riding high on a four-game winning streak.
That has led some to suggest, via talk radio or through social media, that the best course of action with Dareus would be to pull off a trade. There are a couple of problems with that scenario, though.
No. 1, Dareus’ value is at an all-time low. He’s coming off a two-sack season, just served a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s drug policy and is currently injured. Another violation of the drug policy could bring a suspension of at least half the season, if not longer. They’d be trading a dollar for a quarter, at best.
No. 2 is his contract. When a player is traded, the unamortized portion of his contract gets charged to his original team on the next year’s salary cap. That would mean the Bills would take a dead-money cap hit of more than $20 million in 2017, the remaining amount of signing and option bonuses already paid out.
If the Bills continue to win without Dareus, however, the conversation isn’t likely to go away completely until after the NFL’s trade deadline passes, which comes this season at 4 p.m. Nov. 1, following the conclusion of Week Eight. In-season trades in the NFL are tricky, because new schemes take time to learn. There are also financial considerations on both sides – a team acquiring a player must have enough room under the salary cap for him.
Another factor to consider is that the Bills are in no position to be trading away good players. Once he’s healthy, the addition of Dareus could take the defense from good to great.
The four-game winning streak has gotten the Bills firmly into the AFC playoff picture – if the season ended today, they’d hold the sixth and final spot. For a team desperate to end a 16-year playoff drought, any trade talk should focus on which players could be acquired to help make a push.
Here is a look at some players around the league who have been rumored to be trade candidates, and what the Bills’ possible level of interest might be, keeping in mind that in-season trades in the NFL are rare. Last year, for example, the only trade at the deadline was tight end Vernon Davis moving from San Francisco to Denver. They’re not impossible, though, as Tuesday’s deal between Kansas City and Green Bay showed (the Packers acquired running back Knile Davis for a conditional late-round draft pick):
Cleveland WR Terrelle Pryor: The winless Browns have the inside track at the No. 1 overall draft picks, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if they went into full-on “tank” mode. Pryor would certainly be the most intriguing piece for the Bills, who could use a wide receiver with Sammy Watkins and Greg Salas on injured reserve. Pryor has 413 receiving yards and three touchdowns, so he wouldn’t come cheap. The NFL Network also reported that he’s the only player the Browns will not consider trading, although that could certainly change in two weeks.
Cleveland OT Joe Thomas: ESPN reported that Thomas will not ask the Browns for a trade, but it should be noted he was almost dealt to Denver last year at the deadline. A nine-time Pro Bowler who has never missed a start, Thomas would be an excellent addition to most offensive lines, but with Cordy Glenn on the left side in Buffalo, he wouldn’t seem to be a fit for the Bills. Glenn, though, has had ankle issues this season. If those popped up again, Thomas would get a lot more intriguing.
Cleveland CB Joe Haden: As the trend shows, there could be a fire sale in Cleveland. The Browns are committed to a total teardown and rebuild, as evidenced by their decision to trade out of the No. 2 draft pick this year showed. Haden had concussion problems in 2015 that limited him to five games, but has played four games this season (missing Sunday’s game against Tennessee with a groin injury), with two interceptions and five passes defensed. With Stephon Gilmore, Ronald Darby and Nickell Robey-Coleman, the Bills don’t currently have an opening at cornerback.
Dallas QB Tony Romo: Sure, this might fall into the “pipe dream” category, but if the Cowboys were to make Romo available, wouldn’t the Bills have to at least take a look? For all the talk from coach Rex Ryan about how pleased he is with Tyrod Taylor’s play, the fact remains that the Bills rank 31st in the league in passing. With rookie Dak Prescott leading the Cowboys to a 5-1 record and playing so well, it’s possible Romo won’t get his job back when he’s healthy enough to play. Perhaps the biggest impediment to a trade, however – other than Jerry Jones’ admiration for him – is Romo’s contract. He’s got a base salary of $8.5 million this year, so more than half of it would transfer to his new team. He’s also got cap hits the next three years in the range of $25 million, although most of that is in base salary, which isn’t guaranteed if he gets cut.
Miami DE Cam Wake: The Dolphins put Wake back in the starting lineup Sunday after he played just 122 snaps over the first five games. Still, at 34, his best days are behind him and the Dolphins’ playoff hopes are all but dead. Although a rebuild would be in their best interest, it’s thought to be unlikely that the Dolphins would trade Wake, who ranks second in franchise history in sacks behind Jason Taylor. That’s particularly true of trading him to a division rival. The Bills also don’t have a need, with Shaq Lawson set to return soon and help out a pass rush led by Lorenzo Alexander and Jerry Hughes.
Chicago WR Alshon Jeffery: He’s playing on a one-year franchise tag, so the idea that the Bears might try and trade Jeffery instead of trying to work out a new contract with him after the year has been floated. But it’s hard to that happening for a couple reasons. Jeffery is one of the few playmakers the Bears have, and trading him makes the roster significantly worse, with no guarantee the draft pick they get in return will pan out.