There are indications that Dallas Cowboys pass-rusher extraordinaire DeMarcus Ware's career is in decline. Ware turns 31 this summer and is coming off a season in which his sack total dropped by 41 percent—from 19.5 to 11.5. Injuries were a factor, but those typically nag more as the years climb.
So, on hypothetical Friday, I'm pondering whether or not Ware would be a Hall of Famer if he were to walk away from the game right now. And if he wouldn't be, I'd like to get a feel for what Ware has left to accomplish in order to qualify as a Hall of Famer.
Here are the facts:
- Ware ranks 19th on the all-time sacks list with 111. Eight of the 14 HOF-eligible players above him are in Canton. Only one of the eight HOF-eligible members of the 100-sack club with fewer sacks than Ware is in the Hall. Based solely on that, you'd have to think he's already a fringe candidate.
- Active players John Abraham (122), Jared Allen (117) and Julius Peppers (111.5) have more sacks than Ware. Jason Taylor (139.5) is retired but awaiting eligibility.
- Ware has never been the Defensive Player of the Year. That despite the fact he owns two of the top-10 sack seasons in NFL history (20 in 2008, 19.5 in 2011). Once Michael Strahan is inevitably elected to the Hall, five of the six eligible players who have had more sacks in a season than Ware will be Hall of Famers. Mark Gastineau likely won't get in, but Ware already has 38 more career sacks than Gastineau. And, again, Ware appears in the top 10 twice. No one else can say that.
- He hasn't missed a game in his eight-year career and has 30 total sacks the last two years, despite being nagged by a potpourri of injuries to his back, shoulder, elbow and ribs. That has to count for something.
- He doesn't have a Super Bowl ring and has just one career playoff victory. Derrick Thomas, Rickey Jackson and Andre Tippett are the only members of the 100-sack club that aren't ranked in the top 10 on the career sacks list but are still in the Hall of Fame.
- He's a four-time first-team All-Pro and a seven-time Pro Bowler. Michael Strahan is matched with him in both categories. Hall of Famers Rickey Jackson, Derrick Thomas and Chris Doleman have just four combined first-team All-Pro honors. Aside from Strahan, you will not find a four-time All-Pro pass-rusher who isn't in the Hall of Fame.
There's an intangible factor, though, that is key for me. And that's the fact that Ware has been the most dominant pass-rusher in the league during the time in which he's been in the NFL. The Pro Bowl and All-Pro nods certainly point to that, but you had to watch him to understand fully how much he has dominated.
You can still quantify it all by stating the simple fact that Ware has more sacks than any player in the league since he entered it in 2005. Jared Allen is right there with him (108), but nobody else is within 29 sacks of his total of 111 during that span.
Right now, he's close. Very close. And Ware is getting healthy and should be ready to go again in Week 1 in 2013. So his stock should continue to rise.
The way I see it, a pair of double-digit-sack seasons should lock things up. And, obviously, a Super Bowl ring would put the debate to bed.
As usual, I'd like to get your take on this.