Updates from Wednesday, Mar. 12
ESPN's Adam Schefter reports which team DeMarcus Ware will visit with today:
Former Cowboys DE DeMarcuus Ware will be flying to Denver today to visit the Broncos, per source.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 12, 2014
One AFC West official who tried to get DeMarcus Ware to visit his city said he was told "you're not going to like where he winds up."— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 12, 2014
ESPN's Ed Werder reports more of the rationale behind why the defensive end was sent packing:
DeMarcus Ware cut because of $12M salary, $16M cap charge. One team tells me Ware convinced he can get at least $10M as UFA— Ed Werder (@Edwerderespn) March 12, 2014
The Dallas Cowboys had an awful defense a season ago, and now they will be without one of their biggest stars after releasing All-Pro defensive end and nine-year veteran DeMarcus Ware.
Clarence Hill of the Star-Telegram broke the news on Tuesday:
The cowboys are releasing ware , per source— Clarence Hill (@clarencehilljr) March 11, 2014
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones commented on letting Ware go (via Andrew Siciliano of NFL Network):
Jerry Jones: “A decision like this, involving a man who is a cornerstone player in the history of your franchise, is extremely difficult."— Andrew Siciliano (@AndrewSiciliano) March 11, 2014
Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio talks about Ware's next move:
Now that the Cowboys have cut defensive end DeMarcus Ware, he’ll have plenty of options.
Per a source with knowledge of the situation, Ware intends to be very selective about his next destination, but also to move quickly. Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that six playoff teams already have called.
ESPN's Adam Schefter reports one team may be very close to signing Ware:
Filed to ESPN: Denver has emerged as the favorite to land former Dallas DE DeMarcus Ware, per league sources.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 12, 2014
Ian Rapoport of NFL.com added:
DeMarcus Ware is set to visit one spot so far — The Broncos. We’ll see if they can close the deal. Usually their specialty.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 12, 2014
David Moore of The Dallas Morning News reports that a return to the Cowboys is not out of the question:
Ware and owner Jerry Jones met Tuesday at Valley Ranch in an attempt to avoid the player’s release. That didn’t happen. But a source with knowledge of the discussion said the two men parted with this understanding:
Ware knows to get the sort of contract he expects the offer will likely come in the first few days of free agency. If that offer doesn’t come he has told the Cowboys he would be willing to return. The source said Ware also indicated that before he signs with another team he will inform the Cowboys of the offer.
The source stressed that neither side has ruled out that they will be able to find an acceptable middle ground. Jones acknowledged as much in the release the club issued Tuesday afternoon announcing Ware’s release.
This past season was the first time Ware wasn't named to a Pro Bowl since 2006. It was also the first time in his career Ware failed to play all 16 regular-season games, as he missed three contests. The mileage, wear and tear and injuries Ware has fought through evidently didn't convince the Cowboys that he was worth keeping around at such a steep cost.
ESPN's Andrew Brandt commented on the move:
Will leave behind huge Cap charge in his wake. RT @Edwerderespn Sources: Cowboys likely to release DeMarcus Ware.— Andrew Brandt (@adbrandt) March 11, 2014
Ware, who turns 32 at the end of July, would have been owed $12.25 million in base salary in 2014 and his cap hit was going to be $16 million, per Spotrac.com.
Rapoport reported on March 4 that the Cowboys told Ware they wanted him to stay—just not for so much money:
The #Cowboys contacted DeMarcus Ware today to let him know they definitely wanted to keep him. But not at $13M per year. Decision time.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 4, 2014
But Jones had already spoken about the possibility of cutting Ware due to his massive cap figure on ESPN's SportsCenter, per a Feb. 24 report by Jon Machota of The Dallas Morning News:
There’s no question when you are where we are on the cap, even though we’ve had some new cap space added, and you have a defensive player that’s your highest paid defensive player, and he hasn’t been on the field much the last two years, that has to be considered. You can’t have it all.
To claim that Ware hasn't been on the field isn't entirely true, because he didn't miss a single game until this past year. Maybe one can't have it all, but an NFL franchise needs at least a competent defense to win championships—and if it's elite, like the reigning Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks, all the better.
Fellow defensive cornerstone linebacker Sean Lee and quarterback Tony Romo have restructured their contracts to alleviate the cap burden on America's Team, per ESPN.com's Todd Archer on March 4. Cornerback Orlando Scandrick also pitched in to help the cause, but Hill doesn't consider it such a selfless act:
For the record, the Cowboys are not scrambling to get under the cap. Flexibility was already built in Romo, Scandrick and Lee's contracts.— Clarence Hill (@clarencehilljr) March 4, 2014
Lets also not give players credit for doing whatever takes to help the team with contract restructures.Its no sacrifice. $12.5M now for Romo— Clarence Hill (@clarencehilljr) March 4, 2014
Apparently, similar accommodations couldn't be made for Ware. With all the questionable moves Jones has presided over for two-plus decades, Ware has certainly been one of the bright spots.
Defense has been holding Dallas back from being a legitimate contender, and getting rid of Ware seems to undermine the agenda of improving the unquestioned inferior side of the ball. Although Romo takes a ton of blame for the Cowboys' recent mediocrity, he has no control over the frequency with which a woeful defensive unit puts him in tough spots.
New defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli will have his work cut out for him after losing a pass-rusher as talented as Ware, who is among the premier players in the game at his position when healthy. The Cowboys finished last in total yards allowed in 2013 and 26th in scoring defense, unable to stop the run or the pass.
Looking forward to what's on the horizon for Ware, the good news is he can get out from under the perpetual black cloud hovering over the Dallas franchise. After carrying such a big load for a bad defense and grinding through physical ailments, he is free to choose his next pro team for the first time.
Plenty of organizations should be lining up to sign him. Even if Ware is looking for more of a lucrative, multi-year deal, as long as he can convince interested suitors that he's healthy enough to play at his typical high level, he should have no problem finding a new NFL home.
Although it has to be bittersweet for Ware to leave the team that drafted him No. 11 overall in 2005, a fresh start may be in the best interest of both parties. It would have been nice to see Ware finish his career in Dallas, especially if the Cowboys are able to escape this funk, but this is his first opportunity to look elsewhere, and it should result in him landing in a more positive overall environment.