In the end, it will be safer and smarter to declare the Bills the winners of Friday night’s stunning trade, which sent former No. 3 overall pick Marcell Dareus to the Jacksonville Jaguars in exchange for a sixth-round pick.
As ESPN.com noted, Buffalo gains immediate cap flexibility—nearly $6 million this year, $2.375 next year and whatever headaches they would have run into in 2019, 2020 and 2021 when the defensive tackle eclipsed 30 years of age. New general manager Brandon Beane rids his roster of another high-profile malcontent and head coach Sean McDermott continues to dazzle a fan base with low expectations. Look what I can do with no Watkins, no Darby, no Dareus!
But for a moment, let’s indulge the Madden player in each and every one of us; the talk radio caller who floods the local sports station at the trade deadline wondering why your team couldn’t swindle Von Miller from the Broncos for a couple of picks and a declining veteran. This actually happened on Friday.
The Jaguars, already the most exciting defensive team in the NFL this season, are going for the jugular. A unit that only gives up 15.7 points per game and almost leads the league in sacks by double digits just acquired a player who, according to Pro Football Focus, was a more damaging interior force than Ndamukong Suh just two years ago.
To understand the impetus for this move, consider where the Jaguars were just a few seasons ago. The veteran players that remained just wanted to be taken seriously. The young players were tired of being the reason many assumed the Jaguars weren’t mature enough to close out football games.
It was brave of general manager Dave Caldwell to strip this roster down to drywall and start over given the shortening lifespans of personnel executives around the league. It was smart of owner Shahid Khan to give him the freedom when plenty in town were ready to flip the canoe over and start again.
That’s why few people along for the ride raised an eyebrow when Caldwell flooded the free-agent market with cash this March and bullied smaller bidders out of deals for Calais Campbell and A.J. Bouye. Or when head coach Doug Marrone ran a ruthless fourth-and-1 fake punt against the Ravens in London this year despite being up 37 points. Or when Leonard Fournette punched the gas pedal on a run-out-the-clock handoff against the Pittsburgh Steelers in a Week 5 victory and scored a 90-yard touchdown. This has quickly become an improvisational season fueled by adrenaline and frustration. Nearly a decade between winning campaigns will do that to you.
Next year, when Beane takes his victory lap in free agency—salary-cap site Over The Cap estimated that Buffalo would have nearly $40 million in space before the Dareus trade—the football world can sit back and golf clap the savvy maneuver. Dareus, according to Pro Football Focus, only played in 138 total snaps this year for Buffalo anyway. It was obvious. For now, we applaud the team lining Dareus up next to Malik Jackson, Yannick Ngakoue, Campbell and Dante Fowler against the Bengals next Sunday.