The Dallas Cowboys really had no choice but to cut ties with defensive end DeMarcus Ware, but that doesn't mean they don't respect what he brought to the team for so many years. Since he was drafted in 2005, Ware has been a professional in every sense of the word, as well as arguably the top pass-rusher in the NFL over that period.
It's sad to see a truly magnificent player leave Dallas, but Cowboys fans everywhere should be happy and proud that Ware represented the team for so many years. We don't need numbers to know that Ware was a great player, but they can certainly help put his career into context.
Let's take a look back at Ware's career with Dallas.
The Pass-Rushing Numbers
Since Ware entered the league in 2005, only one player (Jared Allen) has recorded more sacks.
With 117 sacks in nine career seasons, Ware has averaged 13 sacks per year, which is simply astounding. Ware and Allen soar above every other pass-rusher over the past nine years, with no one else even reaching 100 sacks. Only two other players have even totaled more than 90.
Ware has been very consistent at putting pressure on the quarterback too. Below, check out Ware's rank in quarterback pressures among all NFL players since 2007, per Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
A lower number is better here. You can see Ware's play has taken a little dip of late, with his worst mark coming last year when he ranked 37th in the NFL in pressures.
However, check out the period from 2007 to 2011. With the exception of one year, Ware never finished worse than sixth in the league in pressures. In 2007 and 2009, he led the NFL.
Of course, we can't forget that, unlike Allen, Ware didn't rush the quarterback on nearly every pass snap. Up until 2013, Ware played every season in a 3-4 defense as an outside linebacker. Although he didn't drop into coverage all that often, he still regularly lost around 60 to 90 snaps per year as a pass-rusher, making his accomplishments even more impressive.
So how has Ware done it? As mentioned in this Sport Science breakdown, Ware's superb length and 4.56 speed probably have something to do with it.
The Run Defense Numbers
The most incredible thing about Ware is that as good as he was at getting to the passer in Dallas, he was nearly just as stout against the run. That's rare for the game's top pass-rushers. If you compare Ware's solo tackles with the top pass-rushers since 2005, he checks in at the top.
The same goes for assisted tackles too.
If we're trying to determine the game's top pure pass-rusher over the past decade, Allen is the only player who can stand up to Ware. When you consider that Ware totaled just 2.5 fewer sacks while being clearly superior against the run, however, there's little doubt that Ware has indeed been the best all-around pass-rusher during his time in the NFL.
Perhaps the highest praise that we can give Ware is that he was extremely well respected among opposing players, teammates, coaches, analysts and fans. That's reflected in his accolades.
Since 2005, no defensive end or outside linebacker has been to more Pro Bowls than Ware (seven). Similarly, no defensive end or linebacker has been selected as a First-Team All-Pro more than Ware (four).
Per DallasCowboys.com via a statement he released after Ware's release, owner Jerry Jones had this to say:
A decision like this, involving a man who is a cornerstone player in the history of your franchise, is extremely difficult. DeMarcus Ware, through his performance on the field and his outstanding character, is someone who is held in the highest regard within the Dallas Cowboys family. He is worthy of our greatest respect, and we want what is best for him and his family.
The End of an Era
Barring an unforeseen change of events, Ware won't be finishing his career in Dallas.
Whether or not it was the right decision to let Ware leave, it's sad to see such an iconic player end his time with the Cowboys.
Good luck in Denver, DeMarcus!