It isn't often that elite pass-rushers become available in NFL free agency, so it should come as no surprise that Denver Broncos jumped at the chance to sign DeMarcus Ware to a 3-year, $30 million contract, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter:
Filed to ESPN: Pending a physical, former Cowboys DE DeMarcus Ware reached agreement with Broncos on 3-year, $30M contract include $20M gtd.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 12, 2014
DeMarcus Ware's Denver deal will pay him $13M this year - $250,000 more than he was scheduled to make from Cowboys, who released him Tues.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 12, 2014
After nine spectacular seasons with the Dallas Cowboys, the organization made the difficult decision to release him for salary-cap purposes on Tuesday, according to Todd Archer of ESPNDallas.com.
Naturally, Twitter reacted to the news Wednesday with various opinions.
The Broncos welcomed Ware to Denver:
The Cowboys thanked Ware for his services to the team:
Richard Deitsche of Sports Illustrated likened the Broncos' free-agency haul to that of nWo's:
Also, the Broncos remind me of nWo. They are getting everyone. Ware. Talib. Hall. Nash. Hogan.— Richard Deitsch (@richarddeitsch) March 12, 2014
NFL.com's Ian Rapoport reports that Ware wasn't the only high-profile pass rusher the Broncos were interested in:
That deal Broncos signed Ware to? They had the same 3-year, $30M deal on the table for Jared Allen. DEN waited to see who was free. Ware was— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 12, 2014
As ESPN's Trey Wingo indicates, the Broncos' aggressiveness could be due to the fact that they are doing their best not to repeat history:
Denver gets Ward and Talib and front runner for Ware? Trying to be 1st Super Bowl loser to win next season since Dolphins in Super Bowl 7— trey wingo (@wingoz) March 12, 2014
ESPN's Cecil Lammey provides reaction from newly-acquired Broncos defensive back T.J. Ward:
TJ Ward says of #Broncos moves "I'm eager to get to work with them (Talib, Ware). Those are two players that I admire."— Cecil Lammey (@cecillammey) March 12, 2014
Pro Football Focus outlines how effective Ware was against the run and the pass last season compared to his 2012 campaign:
DeMarcus Ware graded at +12.6 overall last season on 648 snaps, +8.0 against the run, +2.7 as a pass rusher. In 2012, +8.2/-1.6/+19.5— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) March 12, 2014
Fox Sports' Mike Hill doesn't believe Ware needs to perform as well as he did in his prime to be effective:
You ain't got to be as great as you used to be when you got greatness next to you….Ware will be fine.— Mike Hill (@ItsMikeHill) March 12, 2014
Charean Williams of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram compares this contract to that of Ware's previous contract. The Broncos' generous offer indicates that they were not deterred by Ware's age or injury:
Ware will not take much of a pay cut over what he was supposed to make thus year. It didn't take long for him to find a new home.— Charean Williams (@NFLCharean) March 12, 2014
Omar Kelly of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel speaks about the free agency ripple effect this move may have:
I would THINK that DeMarcus Ware deal eliminates the Broncos from the soon to come Darrell Revis Sweepstakes. (stomach grumbling...Pats?)— Omar Kelly (@OmarKelly) March 12, 2014
The New York Daily News' Gary Myers noted Denver's attention to defense thus far but speculated about the lack of moves on offense:
John Elway serious about fixing Broncos defense with signings of Ware, Ward and Talib. But who blocks for Peyton if play 'Hawks in SB again?— Gary Myers (@garymyersNYDN) March 12, 2014
It is no secret that the Cowboys have been a disappointment in recent years; however, Ware has been the one constant in terms of excellent play. He was named to the Pro Bowl on seven occasions while with Dallas, and was a four-time first-team All-Pro selection as well.
Ware is also the Cowboys' all-time sacks leader with 117. The rest of Dallas' defensive line pales in comparison, according to Tim MacMahon of ESPNDallas.com:
DeMarcus Ware had 117 sacks in his career with Cowboys. D-linemen currently under contract with Dallas have combined 15.5 career sacks.— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) March 11, 2014
As tough as the release of Ware had to be on Cowboys fans, owner Jerry Jones was clearly disheartened by the situation too. Per Rowan Kavner of DallasCowboys.com, Jones left the door open for Ware to return, although that may have been wishful thinking on his part.
A decision like this, involving a man who is a cornerstone player in the history of your franchise, is extremely difficult ... After meeting (Tuesday) afternoon, DeMarcus and I agreed on an understanding that would allow him to explore the options he will have for the 2014 season and beyond. We were also in very strong agreement that playing for the Dallas Cowboys would be one of the options we would both be exploring.
Once a player of Ware's caliber hit the market, it was clear that he would essentially have his pick of the litter. According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, a number of top-notch teams showed interest in Ware almost immediately:
How much interest has DeMarcus Ware received? Six playoff teams have called. He’d like to move quickly if possible.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 11, 2014
Ware is coming off the worst season of his career as he mustered just six sacks in 13 games, and missed action for the first time in his NFL career due to injury. At the age of 31, perhaps there is some thought that the Troy product could be on the decline.
Aside from the 2013 campaign, though, Ware has been nothing short of incredible over the course of his career. He finished with 11 or more sacks every year from 2006 through 2012, including seasons with 20 and 19.5 sacks respectively.
Ware also happens to be one of the NFL's most versatile pass-rushers. Not only can he get to the quarterback from an upright position, but he can do it with his hand on the ground as well:
DeMarcus Ware is versatile. Since the start of 2008, he leads all players with 57.5 sacks as a stand-up linebacker, but also has 26 as a DE.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 11, 2014
There are very few players in the league who can excel in any type of defense, but Ware has proven capable of doing so. Provided Ware is healthy throughout the 2014 season, it's tough to imagine him having anything less than a stellar year with the Broncos.
Even if Ware doesn't harbor any ill will toward the Cowboys for releasing him, it's likely that part of him wants to prove to his former team that he is still capable of being an elite player in the NFL. He didn't look the part in 2013, but everyone is entitled to one outlier of a season.
Ware's struggles last year didn't seem to scare off many teams, including the defending AFC champion Denver Broncos, who immediately emerged as a potential landing spot prior to officially signing him, per Lindsay Jones of USA Today:
Broncos aren't done. Team sources confident about impending DeMarcus Ware visit.— Lindsay Jones (@bylindsayhjones) March 12, 2014
As sad as it may have been for Ware to leave the only team he has ever known, it was probably the best thing that could have happened to his career. The Cowboys don't appear to be on the verge of a sudden ascent to the top of the league, and Ware only has so many opportunities to chase a Super Bowl.
It may take some time for Ware to adjust to his new surroundings, but it shouldn't be long before the Ware of old emerges and proves that he still has plenty of gas left in the tank.
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