The team released the following statement Wednesday from general manager Doug Whaley:
“We are, obviously, disappointed with this latest development involving Marcell Dareus," Whaley said. "We will be in contact with the league regarding the situation and continue to offer support and assistance to Marcell.”
The Bills have plenty of reason to be disappointed in Dareus. Just 12 days ago the team exercised Dareus' fifth-year option, which will pay him a guaranteed $8.06 million salary next season. However, the salary is guaranteed only for injury until the start of the 2015 league year next March, when it becomes fully guaranteed.
That gives the Bills some flexibility with Dareus' contract but they can't be happy with what happened Monday night. According to WVUA-TV, Dareus was found with synthetic marijuana, also known as "spice," after he was pulled over for speeding near the Alabama-Georgia border.
Dareus was charged with possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia. Since Dareus was reportedly found with synthetic marijuana, he was charged with a Class C felony, which carries a minimum one-year prison sentence under Alabama law.
Had Dareus been found with only "regular" marijuana, assuming it was only for personal use, he likely would have only been charged with second-degree marijuana possession, a Class A misdemeanor in the state.
The legal process will have to play out with Dareus -- he could potentially plead to a lesser charge -- but the felony charges make for a tricky situation with the former third-overall pick.
That's before the NFL doles out any discipline. Since Dareus' arrest was for a substance other than alcohol, he faces up to a four-game suspension for violating the league's drug policy.
If Dareus winds up being suspended, the Bills have some depth at defensive tackle that could help them withstand the blow. Alan Branch (330 pounds) started 13 games last season and is currently slated to backup Dareus and Kyle Williams, both Pro Bowlers, at defensive tackle. Branch could step in for four games and the Bills' defense wouldn't take a major hit.
In the long term, the Bills will need to decide what they want to do with Dareus. After Dareus was suspended for the first quarter of the Bills' Week 16 game last season, coach Doug Marrone said that incident was "behind us." A week later, Dareus was benched again -- this time for the entire first half of the Bills' season finale -- and Marrone again said he and Dareus would "move forward."
Well, here we go again, and the Bills are understandably disappointed.