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Team Report - BUFFALO BILLS

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INSIDE SLANT

Buffalo Bills defensive tackle Marcell Dareus, granted a leave from the team after failing a conditioning test, entered a pre-trial drug program in an effort to have felony drug charges dismissed.

According to Buffalo's WKBW.com, Dareus was in court Monday in Alabama over charges filed following a May 5 arrest in Cleburne County, Ala. The website reported that Dareus was accepted into a pre-trial program that, if completed satisfactorily, could result in the dismissal of charges of possession of a controlled substance and drug paraphernalia.

Dareus also is entered in the NFL's anti-drug program, WKBW.com reported. He could face a suspension from the league.

Even if the drug charges related to the May 5 traffic stop are expunged, Dareus faces other legal troubles. He was charged with numerous traffic violations after crashing his Jaguar while allegedly drag racing against Bills defensive end Jerry Hughes on May 30 in Hamburg, N.Y.

Dareus was placed on the active/non-football injury list as the Bills began training camp Sunday. He reportedly failed his conditioning test.

Coach Doug Marrone subsequently excused Dareus from camp.

"He's not the only one (to fail his physical), but obviously you want your players to come in and be ready to go," Marrone said. "We're here for a long period of time, and we'll make up for it."

There is no timetable for when Dareus will retake the conditioning test.

"We're not just going to put him out there every day," Marrone said. "We'll wait until our weight coaches say, 'Hey, you know what, we're ready to go and let's go.'

"He'll be in shape and ready to play. Right now he needs to focus on getting himself ready, getting himself on the field, and focus on football."

Last season, Dareus had 71 tackles, 7.5 sacks, three pass breakups and a forced fumble.

CAMP CALENDAR

Players reported: July 18

First practice: July 20

Aug. 13-14: Joint practices at Steelers camp

NOTES, QUOTES

--A Toronto investment group led by rock star Jon Bon Jovi would not plan to move the Bills out of western New York if it buys the team, according to the Toronto Sun.

The Bills were put on the market after Hall of Fame owner Ralph Wilson died in March. The franchise was recently valued at $870 million by Forbes. The team is expected to be sold for at least $1 billion.

Bon Jovi's group has reportedly been saying privately and plans to inform the trust managing the sale of the Bills that it will not relocate the team.

Aside from Bon Jovi, the group also includes Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment chairman Larry Tanenbaum and the Rogers family. Tanenbaum controls the Toronto Maple Leafs and Toronto Raptors. The Rogers family includes Edward Rogers, who is deputy chairman of Rogers, the large Toronto communications company.

If the group buys the Bills, Bon Jovi, Tanenbaum and the Rogers family would each own one-third of the team, but Bon Jovi would be the principle owner.

Bon Jovi's group is on a list of prospective buyers who have submitted a non-disclosure agreement form to Morgan Stanley, the banking firm in charge of the team's sale. It retained the Goldman Sachs banking firm to assist in its bid.

Donald Trump and Buffalo Sabres owners Terry and Kim Pegula are also listed as potential buyers.

Bon Jovi has expressed interest in owning an NFL team but has never specifically mentioned the Bills. He discussed his interest during a restaurant meeting in June with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, according to the Associated Press.

Bon Jovi also received support from Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones earlier this year.

The Bills are locked in to play at Ralph Wilson Stadium through the 2019 season due to terms of a 2010 lease agreement.

--One area the Bills need to improve on this season is extending drives on offense. They ranked 29th in the NFL last year in third-down conversion percentage at 34 percent, and their 5.52 plays per drive ranked 22nd, fueled in large part by their propensity to go three-and-out 25.6 percent of the time, 26th in the league. Offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett knows the issue, and he's eager to find solutions.

"If you look at us last year, that right there is going to extend so many more drives," he said of improving on third down. "We have to continue to be better at that, and it's something I've really challenged the guys with. Third-down and red-zone situations, that's what we need to work on and that's what's going to get us more plays."

One of the keys to improvement is for the Bills to be more efficient through the air. Their 546 rushing attempts were the most in the NFL last season, and there were times when the ground game was the only thing working. When the Bills were forced to throw, not a lot good happened.

"We've got to fix that," said running back C.J. Spiller. "In order for us to be the offense that we want to be, we have to stay on the field. If we want our defense to be dominant, like we know they're capable of being, we have to be able to take some of the pressure off those guys by not putting them out there series after series."

--One of the Bills' most pleasant surprises in 2013 was defensive end Jerry Hughes. The former first-round pick of the Colts was a non-entity in Indianapolis, and the Bills were able to swap a former third-round pick, Kelvin Sheppard, to acquire Hughes. Hughes came through with 10 sacks last year, five more than he had in three seasons at Indy combined. This year, Hughes is in line to start in the Bills' 4-3 base defense coordinated by Jim Schwartz.

"He's brought in his 4-3 scheme, but as far as what I'm doing it's pretty much the same thing I did last year," Hughes said. "My hand is on the ground and I'm coming off the edge trying to create pressure to get to the quarterback."

Schwartz tempered his enthusiasm about Hughes at the end of minicamp because, after all, the players are still in shorts, but in watching tape of Hughes from last season, Schwartz knows he's a critical player up front.

"He can change the game with a pass rush," Schwartz said. "That's a big thing in this game, and those guys are very valuable."

--Team strength: Defensive line.

The Bills have three Pro Bowl players up front -- tackles Marcell Dareus and Kyle Williams, and end Mario Williams, plus end Jerry Hughes. While setting a team record with 57 sacks in 2013, those four players combined for 41 sacks, including a team-high 13 by Mario Williams.

The Bills can also bring in players such as veterans Alan Branch and Manny Lawson, and they also like young players Stefan Charles and Corbin Bryant, both of whom saw playing time at the end of last season. Under new coordinator Jim Schwartz, the Bills might not blitz as much as they did when Mike Pettine was scheming the defense, but if the front four can continue to generate pressure without help, Schwartz won't have to send linebackers or safeties.

--Breakout player: Wide receiver Marquise Goodwin.

Goodwin flashed some excitement last season as a deep threat as he caught three touchdown passes on deep balls, using his dynamic speed to get behind the defense. Injuries slowed him at several points during the year, though, and he finished with just 17 catches for 283 yards.

With a year in the system, Goodwin could become a key player in the passing game. Defenses will be concerned with rookie receiver Sammy Watkins, and receiver Robert Woods deserves attention on underneath routes, so Goodwin could find himself in some favorable matchups on the outside. To succeed, he needs to stay healthy, and be more consistent as a pass-catcher.

--Fantasy football reality check: Wide receiver Robert Woods.

Woods came into the NFL at the same time as quarterback EJ Manuel last year, a pair of high-round draft picks, and the two hit it off immediately. Even with veteran Stevie Johnson on the roster, Manuel seemed more comfortable with Woods, especially early in the season, as Woods just always seemed to be an outlet target for Manuel.

This year, the bond has grown and they played a lot of pitch and catch in OTAs and minicamp. Woods caught 40 passes for 597 yards and three touchdowns as a rookie, and those numbers should jump dramatically. Woods is a player who runs precise routes and could become an effective go-to target in the red zone.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

The Bills announced that they signed defensive tackle Landon Cohen and wide receiver Naaman Roosevelt, and released wide receiver Ramses Barden and linebacker Nathan Williams.

Cohen spent last season with the Dallas Cowboys and Chicago Bears. He has played 40 NFL games with 30 tackles, six tackles for loss. He was a seventh-round draft pick of the Detroit Lions in 2008.

Roosevelt played with the Bills in 2010 and '11. He spent the past two seasons on the practice squads of the Lions (2013) and Cleveland Browns (2012). He has 25 catches for 396 yards with one touchdown.

PERSONNEL TRACKER

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (not tendered offers)

--FS Jim Leonhard (not tendered as UFA).

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: None.

EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: None.

DRAFT CHOICES SIGNED

--WR Sammy Watkins (1/4): 4 yrs, terms unknown.

--T Cyrus Kouandjio (2/44): 4 yrs, terms unknown.

--LB Preston Brown (3/73): 4 yrs, terms unknown.

--CB Ross Cockrell (4/109): 4 yrs, terms unknown.

--G Cyril Richardson (5/153): 4 yrs, terms unknown.

--LB Randell Johnson (7/221): 4 yrs, terms unknown.

--T Seantrel Henderson (7/237): 4 yrs, terms unknown.

PLAYERS RE-SIGNED

--K Dan Carpenter: UFA; 4 yrs, terms unknown.

--TE Mike Caussin: Potential RFA; terms unknown.

--TE Scott Chandler; UFA; terms unknown.

--WR Chris Hogan: ERFA; $495,000/1 yr.

--OL Antoine McClain: ERFA; $495,000/1 yr.

--P Brian Moorman: Potential UFA; $955,000/1 yr.

--FB Frank Summers: ERFA; $570,000/1 yr.

PLAYERS ACQUIRED

--WR Ramses Barden: FA; $1.475M/2 yrs.

--RB Bryce Brown (trade Eagles).

--RB Anthony Dixon: UFA 49ers; $3.5M/3 yrs, $750,000 SB.

--QB Dennis Dixon: FA; $1.475M/2 yrs.

--CB Corey Graham: UFA Ravens; $16M/4 yrs.

--LB Keith Rivers: UFA Giants; $4.05M/2 yrs, $1M SB.

--LB Brandon Spikes: UFA Patriots; $3M/1 yr, $900,000 SB.

--LB Stevenson Sylvester: Not tendered as UFA by Steelers; terms unknown.

--G Chris Williams: UFA Rams; $13.5M/4 yrs, $5.5M guaranteed.

--WR Mike Williams (trade Buccaneers).

--DE Jarius Wynn: UFA Cowboys; 1 yr, terms unknown.

PLAYERS LOST

--S Jairus Byrd: UFA Saints; $54M/6 yrs, $11M SB/$27.9M guaranteed.

--DE Alex Carrington: UFA Rams; 1 yr, terms unknown.

--WR Stevie Johnson (traded 49ers).

--QB Kevin Kolb (released/failed physical).

--LB Arthur Moats: UFA Steelers; $795,000/1 yr, $65,000 SB.

--T Thomas Welch: Not tendered as RFA/Saints; terms unknown.

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