- Mike Rodak, ESPN Staff Writer
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Training camp is still more than six weeks away, but for the moment, the Buffalo Bills look a little thin at defensive tackle.
Marcell Dareus' off-field troubles have led to him sitting out the remainder of organized team activities. His likely replacement in the lineup, Alan Branch, hasn't been at voluntary OTAs and isn't in contact with the coaching staff.
With defensive captain and Pro Bowler Kyle Williams entrenched at one defensive tackle spot, the Bills used Corbin Bryant in Dareus' place Tuesday. Bryant has been in the NFL for three seasons but has little playing experience and is undersized. The Bills would hold their breath if they had to start him in a regular-season game.
The same holds true for the other three players on the Bills' depth chart at the position: Stefan Charles, Damien Jacobs and Colby Way. The latter two are undrafted free agents clawing for a roster spot. Charles showed promise in limited duty last season but is raw.
Bills coach Doug Marrone was blunt Tuesday about Branch, saying he has "no idea" where the veteran has been. The expectation is that Branch will show up for mandatory minicamp later this month, but missing three weeks of OTAs as Jim Schwartz tries to install his defensive scheme won't help Branch's cause.
Dareus' status, meanwhile, is tenuous. The NFL could suspend him for either of his recent legal incidents, while it's no guarantee that his upcoming two-week absence from the team will prevent him from running into further trouble.
That leads to the following question: Should the Bills add veteran insurance at defensive tackle?
The Bills have about $7.5 million in cap space, plenty to sign even a higher-priced free agent. For some players remaining on the free-agent market, they're holding out hope for a bigger-money deal from a team that is more desperate to plug a hole than they were in March.
For others, the question is often health. Is the player still in "football shape" and will he be effective even during the rigors of an NFL training camp?
If the Bills chose to hedge their bets at defensive tackle this summer and add another veteran to the mix, here are some of their options:
Kevin Williams: He's easily the biggest name on the market. He'll turn 34 this August but missed only one game last season for the Minnesota Vikings. At 6-foot-5 and 311 pounds, Williams has the size to replace Dareus or Branch in a pinch. He's a six-time Pro Bowler who notched three sacks last season for the Vikings, so he's probably demanding more than a minimum contract. This would be a more costly insurance policy.
Isaac Sopoaga: Released by the New England Patriots earlier this offseason, Sopoaga hasn't found a new home. He turns 33 in September and wasn't a good fit with New England after being traded by the Philadelphia Eagles mid-season. Still, he's a 330-pounder who could provide more bulk along the defensive line than Bryant, Charles or either undrafted rookie. His price tag would also be significantly less than Williams'.
Aubrayo Franklin: Much like Sopoaga, Franklin is a big body in the middle of a defensive line but is aging. He turns 34 in August and has been well-traveled in recent seasons, most recently starting 15 games for a subpar Indianapolis Colts defense. His price tag wouldn't be too high.