(WGR 550) -- As it currently stands the lineup of the Buffalo Bills defense looks to be a fairly potent unit, and a big reason for that is the duo making up the middle of the defensive line.
Veteran defensive tackle Kyle Williams returned back to full health after a pair of surgeries in successive years and former third overall pick Marcell Dareus reached the consistency that the team was clamoring for ahead of the campaign. The pair played extremely well all season long and were two of the best the team had to offer in 2013.
Does that cross defensive tackle off the list of draft friendly positions? Let’s examine:
What they have Starters: Kyle Williams, Marcell Dareus Reserves: Alan Branch, Stefan Charles, Corbin Bryant
What they need
- With the Bills likely going back to a primarily 4-3 look under new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz they boast an exciting starting duo, a rotational player with starting capabilities and even a prospect that showed a lot of potential in limited action last season. Kyle Williams, Marcell Dareus, Alan Branch and Stefan Charles all figure to play a role in the rotation in 2014.
The big question for the Bills at this position is what they’ll do with Dareus. Reprimanded twice for habitual tardiness to team meetings throughout the season, the Bills have a decision to make on the former third overall pick. The easy part of the conversation is what they’ll do in the short-term.
They have until May 3 to decide if they’ll use the fifth-year team option on his rookie deal, a new facet of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Since he was a top 10 selection, it would pay Dareus the average of the top 10 paid players at his position in 2014 — the same number as the transition tag, which for defensive tackles is $8.060 million.
It’s an easy decision because they keep him at a relatively fair price, considering his production and age, to get another year to examine if they should give him a boatload of guaranteed money on a long-term contract. Dareus just turned 24 so a new level of maturity and responsibility could be around the corner. Getting two years to judge if they're willing to extend Darues that type of offer is the best thing possible for Buffalo.
Williams is signed through 2015 at manageable cap numbers as well, so the starting players should be set for the next two years. Unless of course the veteran’s production completely falls off in 2014, the duo should be in place through the 2015 season.
Branch just signed a three-year extension with Buffalo which gives them another piece for the defensive tackle rotation. If his play falls off, they can easily get out from his contract with a relatively small dead money hit to the salary cap. Charles is an intriguing prospect the Bills want to develop, and Bryant was just average in his time on the field last year.
At defensive tackle, the Bills could use some depth to challenge the bottom of the position for a roster spot.
How will they do it?
- Unless the Bills decide to not use the fifth-year option on Dareus for 2015, defensive tackle is likely relegated to the back half of the draft. Depending on who is available in the fifth and seventh round when Buffalo is on the clock, they could add someone to challenge both Charles and Bryant for a roster spot and playing time. At the very least, they'll add some undrafted free agents just for the sake of training camp. If they don’t use the option on Dareus, perhaps someone like Pittsburgh’s Aaron Donald could tempt them. Or, they could take a chance on a player like Dominique Easley from Florida if he lasts to their third-round selection. However, in what looks to be a win-now mode, it’s most likely that they use the option on Dareus and allocate their first few picks on other positions.
Players connected to the Bills (will be updated):