The deal is done. One cloud hanging over this Buffalo Bills team heading into the 2015 season has been removed with the massive six-year, $100 million contract extension to Marcell Dareus.
Talks stalled during training camp --- and Dareus wasn't thrilled. Now, the Bills make arguably their best player their richest.
The $60 million guaranteed is fourth-most in the NFL, first among all defensive players and nearly double anyone else on the Bills' roster.
Dareus, who is suspended in Week 1, wasn't made available Thursday. However, his teammates up front are glad he'll be around long term.
“I’m sure it makes him happy to have that deal over with and can now just focus on football," defensive end Jerry Hughes said. "Now, we know what the future’s like. He’s here. Now, we’re excited to just start playing football, get back on the field and back to having fun.”
Expectations will, naturally, rise even higher with the Bills investing so much money into their front four. Mario Williams is still on a deal that paid him $50 million guaranteed and the team re-signed Hughes over the off-season at the rate of five years, $45 million.
At these price tags, the Bills will expect all four to make life "miserable" for guys like Indianapolis' Andrew Luck.
“Yeah, but that’s why we put the work in, in the offseason," Hughes said. "You don’t put the work in, in February, to be mediocre. You put the work in, in February, to be great for once the season rolls around. So that’s what we do. That’s why we prepare the way we prepare. We have high expectations for ourselves. But I feel like you’re supposed to have high goals so you can achieve them.”
The Dareus Effect is obvious.
Since Buffalo took the Alabama defensive tackle third overall in the 2011 NFL draft, he has grown into one of the NFL's best defensive tackles, in turn, freeing up plays for others. In 2013, he had 71 tackles and 7.5 sacks. In 2014, he had 49 tackles and 10 sacks. Hence, his desire for a contract in the Ndamukong Suh stratosphere.
“I think the great thing about what we have is that it’s not a one-trick pony," Kyle Williams said. "It’s not a one-pony show. We have a lot of guys that play off each other and make each other better. We all do certain things well. We all command attention. And we can all take attention off of each other. It’s really a sum of parts that helps us be as good as we’ve been."
Added coach Rex Ryan, "I’ve had some great ones during my time. I’ve been blessed to really coach some fantastic players and he certainly be on top of that list. So to have somebody like that obviously is a great comfort level. You can do so much and when you combine him with what we have, with Kyle Williams as smart as he is, as talented as he is and Mario and Jerry and all the guys. ... Man no wonder I came to Buffalo, that’s a heck of a deal."
Buffalo could theoretically revisit both Williams contracts after the 2015 season. Who knows how long this front four has together? Williams says he has not thought about this being the group's last run at all.
And during the summer, Hughes did speak to Dareus about playing through a contract year, something he did himself in 2014. He admits that a looming free agency "can wear on you mentally." He told Dareus not to worry about it. And now with one year left on his rookie deal, Dareus won't have to.
This first game, the Bills will be counting on Corbin Bryant filling Dareus' shoes, and Bryant certainly stood out in camp. Williams expects Bryant to step in and the Bills to "run on all cylinders."
When Dareus returns, this defensive line will be expecting plenty.
On the field... and at the restaurant.
“We all know who’s buying," Hughes said. "He said he’s taking us to Mulberry’s and Chophouse. We’re excited. We can’t wait for him to get back.”