(Kyle Terada/USA TODAY Sports)

The Buffalo Bills' all-star defensive line is staying together for the foreseeable future

Bills, players keeping all-star defensive line together

Buffalo Bills General Manager Doug Whaley started the excruciating long preseason (way back in March) by saying he intended to keep the team’s rock-solid defensive front together for the foreseeable future.

More newsworthy, though, was those star players showing their desire to keep together the “Cold Front.” as the D line was nicknamed.

Showing right away that Whaley and the players meant it, the Bills and defensive end Jerry Hughes agreed to an extension just after free agency began. 

Hughes allowed his agents just one day to see what the open market had to offer. In the end, while he found it was likely he’d get at least a slightly larger payday elsewhere, he opted to stay in Buffalo where he lines up alongside three Pro Bowlers. The Bills rewarded Hughes with a five-year extension worth $45 million ($20 million guaranteed).

Now with Thursday’s mega deal for star defensive tackle Marcell Dareus, all four members of the Cold Front are under contract for at least the next three seasons.

Despite posturing a bit through the media during training camp, Dareus and his representatives were easy going throughout negotiations that ended with the young, superstar defensive tackle signing a six-year, $100 million contact that guarantees at least $60 million.

“Both sides came to the table with the same goal, keep this very special group together,” a source with knowledge of the negotiations told Buffalo Football Report. “Everyone agreed from the start that Marcell deserves to be paid like the best DT in football because that’s what he is. Mutual respect was apparent.” 

The $60 million guaranteed is the most ever for a defensive lineman.

“Marcell Dareus is a tremendous player and we feel he has a great opportunity to reach his potential as a player and leader here with the Buffalo Bills,” Whaley said Thursday. “Throughout this process, we wanted Marcell to remain a Buffalo Bill for the long-term and he made it clear to us that he wanted to continue his career in Buffalo.”

Dareus wasn’t able to sign the new contract at One Bills Drive, and he’ll miss Week One because he is currently serving a one-game suspension for a banned substance use violation. But the rest of the Cold Front is in place, revving up for Sunday’s season opener.

The No. 1 overall draft pick in 2006 by the Houston Texans, Mario Williams is midway through a six-year, $96 million contract, which included a $19 million signing bonus and $31.4 million guaranteed. He is a prime candidate for a restructure next year as the Bills look to keep other key pieces, including linebacker Nigel Bradham.

Kyle Williams restructured this past spring, agreeing to a three-year, $22.3 million contract, including a $4.5 million signing bonus. Only the bonus, which was prorated over the life of the contract, was guaranteed. Sizable cap space could be freed next season by releasing the 32-year-old veteran, but he is coming off an All Pro season and has been to four of the past five Pro Bowls. Moreover, he is among the team’s key on-field and locker room leaders.

Hughes was the No. 31 overall pick by the Indianapolis Colts in 2010, but injuries limited his first two seasons. He only managed four sacks in his final year with the Colts in 2012, as media began labeling him a bust. The Bills traded linebacker Kelvin Shepard to the Colts for Hughes in 2013. Hughes came into his own with the Bills over the past two seasons, earning him the sizable extension.

Dareus is the youngest, most dominate and now highest paid member of the defense. He is big, very strong and incredibly agile. He has becoming a regular at the Pro Bowl. He racked up 10 sacks in 2014, but he is vaunted most for his run-stuffing ability.

In Dareus’ absence Sunday, Rex Ryan and Dennis Thurman plan to use third-year Corbin Bryant most. This will be Bryant’s first NFL start. He came into the NFL in 2011 undrafted, spending his rookie year with the Chicago Bears and 2012 on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ practice squad before being signed to the Bills’ active roster in 2013. He has developed nicely in Buffalo, providing high-quality depth in relief of Dareus the past two seasons. 

The Bills will commit some $41 million, more than a quarter of their salary cap, to the Cold Front foursome this season. It remains to be seen if that turns out to be a winning formula.

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