ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — The Buffalo Bills now have two $100 million starters fronting their defensive line after Marcell Dareus signed a six-year contract extension on Thursday.

The defensive tackle’s new contract, which kicks in after this season, is worth just over $100 million, and makes Dareus the team’s top-paid player. The value of Dareus’ extension surpasses the six-year, $100 million contract the Bills signed defensive end Mario Williams to during free agency in March 2012.

The Bills announced the signing in a release issued before practice. A person familiar with negotiations revealed the length and value of the contract to The Associated Press, speaking on condition of anonymity because the team did not disclose those figures.

“Marcell Dareus is a tremendous player and we feel he has a great opportunity to reach his potential as a player and a leader here with the Buffalo Bills,” general manager Doug Whaley said in a statement. “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.”

Now the Bills have to wait a week before Dareus can take the field. He’ll miss the Bills opener against Indianapolis on Sunday while serving a one-game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy.

The suspension stemmed from Dareus being arrested and charged with possession of a controlled substance and drug paraphernalia after being stopped by Alabama State Police on May 5, 2014. Dareus avoided trial, during which he would have faced felony drug charges, by agreeing to enter an NFL substance abuse program a few months later.

That wasn’t Dareus’ only run-in with the law.

In April, Dareus reached a plea agreement to have misdemeanour charges dropped for crashing his Jaguar into a tree near a busy suburban Buffalo intersection in May 2014.

On the field, Dareus has become one of the league’s top defensive linemen since the Bills selected him with the No. 3 pick in the 2011 draft out of Alabama. He’s a two-time Pro Bowl selection and earned his first All-Pro honour last season, when he led the league’s defensive tackles with a career-best 10 sacks.

Listed at 6-foot-3 and 331 pounds, Dareus has a rare combination of speed and power to attack opposing quarterbacks or stop the run. Along with Mario Williams, Kyle Williams and Jerry Hughes, Dareus has been part of an aggressive defence that has an NFL-leading 111 sacks over the past two seasons.

The Bills thought highly enough of Dareus that they picked up the option on the fifth and final year of his contract before the start of last season. The 25-year-old is scheduled to make just over $8 million this season.

With Dareus’ extension, the Bills have plenty invested into their defensive line. Mario Williams is set to make a $12.1 million base salary this season. Kyle Williams has three years left on his contract, and due to make $4.5 million this year.

And then there’s Hughes, who will make $4.6 million this year after signing a five-year contract extension in March.


AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP_NFL

John Wawrow, The Associated Press