DeMarcus Ware was surprisingly released by the Dallas Cowboys on Tuesday, setting suitors scrambling to court the unrestricted free agent.
Just about every team in the league could use a player of Ware’s caliber. The nine-year veteran has made seven Pro Bowl appearances, been named a First-Team All-Pro on four occasions and racked up 117 sacks, leading the league twice, during his tenure with the franchise that drafted him No. 11 overall back in 2005.
Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones called the decision to cut the 31-year-old “extremely difficult” in a statement released on the team’s website, but it won’t be nearly as tough for any of the organizations pursuing Ware to ink him to a new contract.
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
The Super Bowl runner-ups are an intriguing landing spot for Ware, as they undoubtedly have the talent to win it all and could use an elite pass-rusher like the Troy product.
According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter (via ESPN Dallas’ Todd Archer), the Broncos are currently the front-runners to acquire Ware’s services.
Schefter tweeted that Ware flew to visit Denver’s team brass on Wednesday:
Former Cowboys DE DeMarcuus Ware will be flying to Denver today to visit the Broncos, per source.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 12, 2014
He also noted that an anonymous AFC West rival was told, “you’re not going to like where he winds up,” hinting that the star defensive talent is likely to end up in an a blue and orange uniform:
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
It’s not too often that one of the NFL’s premier teams has oodles of cap space to throw at marquee talent, but that is exactly the position that Denver found itself in this offseason.
The Broncos just locked up Aqib Talib for six years, paying the premier corner $26 million guaranteed and potentially up to $57 million. Now they are looking to bring in Ware to augment a defensive front that already includes Von Miller, one of the best young pass-rushers in the game.
With quarterback Peyton Manning’s window shutting, the Broncos are clearly willing to pull out all the stops in order to win a championship in the next two seasons or so. This club knows it doesn’t have much longer to win it all, so going all in this offseason makes perfect sense.
Will Denver sign Ware?
Don’t be surprised if that line of thinking convinces Ware, not exactly the youngest player himself, to join forces and help push this star-studded unit back to the championship game.
Ware’s presence would make the Broncos, a group that already possesses a historically amazing offense, one of the most feared and well-rounded squads in the entire NFL. There’s no such thing as winning a title in March, but Denver would be pretty close to insuring a Super Bowl run by making this move.
New England Patriots
The Pats haven’t been identified as one of the playoff teams seeking Ware’s services, but it would be a surprise if New England wasn’t involved in the process.
The club should be intrigued at the possibility of adding Ware simply to keep him out of Denver’s hands, but also because he fills one of the team’s holes and would be an ideal player for head coach Bill Belichick’s system.
Belichick would certainly be happy to have Ware aboard, as he once compared the star to legendary linebacker Lawrence Taylor and heaped praise upon his ability, according to a separate report by Archer:
I mean Lawrence Taylor, you’re talking about a pretty high level there. Ware does all the things that … I mean, he’s the best player we’ve faced this year. He does all of the things you want him to do. He’s strong against the run. He can rush the passer. He’s great in pursuit. He’s got power. He’s got speed. He’s got good technique. He’s good in pass coverage. He gets a lot of depth.
I mean, he’s an asset to your pass coverage, if you want to drop him. I’d say all those same things about Lawrence Taylor. Lawrence had a tremendous career. Ware has had a great --what is it? -- six years or whatever it’s been. He’s been great in that time and looks like he’s still going strong.
I’m sure he’ll be able to continue at this level for quite a while longer here as far as what it looks like right now. He’s a guy you’ve got to account for on every snap. You’ve got to know where he is and he could definitely disrupt any play if you don’t handle him.
The 6’4”, 245-pound beast can line up at outside linebacker in a 3-4 system or defensive end in the 4-3, showing the ability to play the latter at a high level when Dallas made the switch under Monte Kiffin this past season.
According to Mike Reiss of ESPN Boston (h/t Erik Frenz of Boston.com), the Pats utilized a sub defense 67 percent of the snaps during the 2013 campaign. That package allows for smaller linebackers to play a bigger role and affords an opportunity for Ware to shine without needing to be on the field full time.
Considering the veteran is getting up there in age, this may sound extremely appealing and still give Ware plenty of chances to take down the opposing signal-caller.
Factor in that New England has a winning culture and strong locker room to the equation, and it isn’t a stretch to see why Ware, who hasn’t been to the playoffs since the Cowboys last won the NFC East in 2009, may be interested.
The Patriots may not be as enticing as the Broncos right now, but they always find a way to win and also employ a future Hall of Famer under center in quarterback Tom Brady.
This team could easily make a Super Bowl run in 2014 and Ware could play a big part of that if he chooses to ply his trade in Foxborough.