Bills GM Whaley: Team has exchanged contract proposals with defensive tackle Marcell Dareus



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PITTSFORD, New York — The Bills have exchanged contract proposals with defensive tackle Marcell Dareus, though no deal is imminent.

General manager Doug Whaley is confident a front-runner will emerge in Buffalo's three-way quarterback competition. And Whaley has no intention to rush starting cornerback Leodis McKelvin onto the field until he's fully recovered after aggravating an injury to his right ankle.

Those were among the issues Whaley touched upon during an interview with The Associated Press three days into training camp.

The only thing Whaley declined to share was a timetable to resolve any of the hot-button concerns for a franchise embarking on a new era under new coach Rex Ryan and new owners Terry and Kim Pegula, who purchased the team last October.

"You can't pin it down," Whaley said, referring to negotiations with Dareus, the two-time Pro Bowl selection entering the final year of his contract. Dareus is anticipated to command a hefty price with the Bills' 2011 first-round draft pick drawing comparisons to some of the NFL's top young defensive linemen.

"Those type of contracts are always a challenge," said Whaley, whose team is already committed to paying defensive end Mario Williams a $12.1 million base salary this year — the fourth of the player's six-year, $100 million deal. "But I have confidence that both sides will come to a conclusion where everybody feels that everybody wins."

Dareus is coming off his most impactful season in which he led NFL defensive tackles with a career-high 10 sacks. He also anchors an attacking-style defense that has combined for an NFL-leading 111 sacks over the past two years.

As for the Bills' long-standing concern at quarterback, Whaley joined Ryan in taking a wait-and-see approach as EJ Manuel, who lost his starting job last year, competes with the team's latest batch of offseason additions: 10-year journeyman Matt Cassel and former Ravens backup Tyrod Taylor.

"We're working through things, and the information is going to make the decision," Whaley said. "Is it going to be a quick decision? Right now, no. But when it becomes obvious to everybody, then coach will make the decision."

All three quarterbacks have struggled early in camp.

Manuel fumbled several snaps, and sailed numerous attempts. Cassel's first pass in team drills was intercepted by rookie second-round pick Ronald Darby. And Taylor, who is listed at 6-foot-1, is having difficulty finding receivers open downfield.

Though Ryan is giving each quarterback an opportunity to play with the starters, Cassel opened each of the first three days with the No. 1 unit.

Ryan explained "it's more appropriate" for Cassel to play with the starters because of his edge in experience.

McKelvin's injury has become a concern after he opened camp on the active/non-football injury list. Though the Bills haven't revealed the exact nature of McKelvin's injury, it's to the same ankle that was surgically repaired after he broke it during a 22-9 loss at Miami on Nov. 13.

Whaley called McKelvin's status day to day, even though the player's ankle is heavily wrapped, and he's been limited to watching practice from a golf cart.

The seventh-year player is due to make $3.1 million in each of the final two seasons of his contract.

Whaley disputed speculation that McKelvin's injury could make him a candidate to be cut to save salary-cap space.

"This is a passing league, and you can't have too many good corners. And he's proven that he's a good corner," Whaley said. "We know what he can do. And we won't push him out there too soon."

NOTES: The Bills signed CB Merrill Noel before practice Monday. He's an undrafted free agent out of Wake Forest, who signed with Buffalo on May 4 before being cut June 18. ... The Bills have a day off Tuesday, before resuming practice Wednesday morning.


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

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