DESTINED FOR THE RING OF HONOR: Right or wrong, releasing DeMarcus Ware had to be difficult | Special feature
This was different. Yes, it was still business, no way around that, but this was also personal.
DeMarcus Ware wasn’t other people. He was a face-of-the-franchise guy, one who took that role quite seriously. He was the anti-diva, too, one who almost never declined a charity event or the signing of an autograph. The fans came first.
Ware, as much as any athlete I’ve covered, never forgot who he was. He was the kid no one wanted coming out of high school, the kid who used to clean out chicken coops. There was no diva in Ware. He just wanted a chance.
Amazingly, Ware was offered just a single football scholarship, that being from Troy. We’re talking all divisions, junior colleges and everything in between. Just one school was interested. If not for some former high school teammates already playing there and convincing the Trojans’ coaching staff, who knows what would have become of Ware.
He arrived in the NFL with high expectations and a skeptical head coach in Bill Parcells. It’s no secret that the Tuna preferred Marcus Spears or Shawne Merriman with the 11th overall pick of the 2005 NFL Draft in favor of Ware, and although the Dallas Cowboys were able to eventually land both Spears and Ware, Jerry Jones wasn’t budging on that first selection. The pick would be Ware.
There were many times Jones allowed Parcells to talk him into draft picks, but this wasn’t one of them. Jones and Parcells even made a little wager on how many sacks Ware would have his first five seasons. Jones won.
Parcells was tough on Ware, even more so than other rookies, which is truly saying something. Ware would bring his coach orange Gatorade during breaks in practice. Any other flavor wouldn’t suffice. Parcells would tell him how great Lawrence Taylor was back in his days with the New York Giants and that Ware was no Taylor. Not even close. There were instances Parcells would chew him out, tell him what he did wrong and on the very next snap, Ware would do exactly as Parcells said. Instead of acknowledging the positive result, Parcells would just turn and walk away, a disgusted look on his face. Ware could do no right.
The media would ask a question about Ware, mention a sack in a preseason game or how quick the rookie looked coming off the ball. Parcells would stare as only he could before saying, “Let’s not put him in Canton just yet, OK?”
Ware has told me that no one has ever treated him like Parcells did. He broke him down and built him back up and in the end, Ware gives the Hall of Fame coach a lot of credit for how his career turned out. It wasn’t easy that first season, though. Lot of tough love.
Reminded of that rookie season at his own Canton induction in 2013, Parcells said, “With this media the way it is nowadays and the internet and the social media, we’re quick to anoint these guys. You know, that’s the last thing he needed to hear, in my opinion, at the time because he really didn’t know what the hell he was doing and that was the truth. But he found out and he continued to do it well. I’m proud of him, and he’s turned into quite a football player.”
The numbers would suggest that Ware will one day join Parcells in Canton. And his career isn’t finished. So far, 117 sacks, and 32 forced fumbles. Seven Pro Bowls, four First Team All-Pro nods and a Second Team All-Decade selection for the 2000s. After a few solid seasons in Denver and the body of work should be more than enough.
This has to rank at the top of the list for most difficult decisions Jones has had to make in his 25 years of ownership, right there with allowing Emmitt Smith to sign with Arizona.
Jones adores Ware and vice versa. And they both always hoped Ware would be one of those guys who played his entire career with the same franchise. That is the ultimate honor for any NFL player, to play their entire careers with one team. Ware wanted that, told me on multiple occasions how important that was to him. In a perfect world, one without a salary cap, that would have been the case, too. Jones would have had no problems signing a few checks these last few years when Ware may have been overpaid. Cost of doing business. The salary cap made that difficult, though.
Ware earned all of the $75 million or so he made with the Dallas Cowboys. That’s a lot of dough, of course, but he never missed a practice, was never late to a meeting and never big-timed anyone, teammate, reporter or coach. The man worked every day like a rookie trying to make the team, and nothing more can be asked of an athlete.
He played every snap the same way, and he played hurt. There are at least 10 occasions in the last five years when the overwhelming majority of players would have sat. Instead, Ware took the field, most famously against undefeated New Orleans six days after being carted off the field with a neck injury against San Diego during the 2009 season. He literally cried on the field thinking his career was over and he’d never be able to play with his kids.
Then there was the finale against the Redskins in 2012, a division title on the line. Ware could barely come out of his stance, never mind make a play. There he was on the field, though. Whether he should have been or not is a debate for another day. Ware played 34 snaps and, he somehow, through sheer will, mustered a QB hit and hurry on Robert Griffin III.
Ware is one of those guys who will do anything for the team and on that day, in his mind, all he could do was take the field. Throughout his nine seasons in Dallas, he was always begging offensive coaches to let him take snaps at tight end, H-back, whatever. Let him block someone, throw him the ball, Ware just wanted to help. They never took him up on the offer, but he was willing. He was always willing for the team, for the fans, for the Dallas Cowboys. He was and is a class act.
The reaction Tuesday was rare in sports today. No one blamed Ware for leaving. Was just one of those situations in life. Not fair, not easy, it is what it is.
This was indeed different. DeMarcus Ware was and always will be a Dallas Cowboy, destined for the Ring of Honor a few years after he hangs them up. He’s just going to play for someone else the next few years.
And that sucks. No other way to say it.
Courtesy: Jeff Sullivan
IRVING, Texas – Recently released Dallas Cowboys sack leader DeMarcus Ware agreed to a three-year contract with the Denver Broncos today.
The Cowboys released Ware, who was set to make $12.25 million, on Tuesday afternoon following a discussion about renegotiating his existing contract. Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones expressed hope the seven-time Pro Bowler would consider a return to the team if he couldn’t find a better deal as a free agent.
“DeMarcus and I agreed on an understanding that would allow him to explore the options he will have for the 2014 season and beyond,” Jones said in a statement Tuesday. “We were also in very strong agreement that playing for the Dallas Cowboys would be one of the options we would both be exploring.”
Those hopes were dashed decisively less than 24 hours later, as the Broncos’ reported deal with Ware is for $30 million over three years, with a $20 million guarantee. The contract will pay Ware $13 million in his first season – more than he was slated to make with the Cowboys.
Ware becomes the latest big-name free agent to sign up with Denver, last year’s league runner-up, in the past two days. The Broncos signed Pro Bowl safety T.J. Ward on Tuesday afternoon, and they added Pro Bowl cornerback Aqib Talib on Tuesday night.
The Cowboys saved $7.4 million in cap space with the decision to release Ware.
Ware jumped out to a fast start with four sacks and an interception in the Cowboys’ first three games last year, before he was hampered by injuries. Ware played through stinger issues and a nagging elbow issue, but a quadriceps injury suffered Oct. 13 against the Redskins forced him to miss the first three games of his career.
Among Ware’s many accomplishments and accolades with the Cowboys are a 20-sack season in 2008, when he was named the NFC Defensive Player of the Year, and a 19.5-sack year just three seasons ago in 2011. Ware and Mark Gastineau are the only two players in league history with two seasons of 19 or more sacks.
One silver lining for Dallas Cowboys fans is that Ware appears likely to finish his NFL career outside the division, and outside NFC altogether. Dallas just played Denver during the 2013 season, which means the Broncos won’t show up on the schedule until 2017 at the earliest – barring a Super Bowl matchup. There was speculation that Philadelphia would attempt to sign the seven-time All-Pro within the NFC East.
The worst defensive team in the NFL just parted ways with its most dynamic player.
The post-DeMarcus Ware era is upon us, and don’t believe for a minute that he and his agent will simply test the free-agent waters.
Ware will get the offer he wants. Ware is likely gone.
How can this possibly be a good thing for the league’s 32nd-ranked defense, given that Ware is only 31-years-old?
It’s mostly — but not entirely — a case of money.
We applaud the forward thinking teams of this league that use the unique status of NFL contracts, cutting players when they are simply starting to leave the prime of their careers in order to make room for newer, younger, cheaper talent.
New England has been doing this for a decade. The New York Giants do it. The New Orleans Saints just cast off about half their defense (it seemed) to retool and invest in the future.
The Cowboys? That’s the team that always keeping the salary cap at bay by re-working contracts and moving today’s problems into tomorrow land.
In large part, those past re-workings caught up with the Dallas Cowboys today. DeMarcus Ware was never supposed to count more than $16 million against the cap, but the club had shifted his money and his cap figure down the line until this crossroads was reached.
We don’t know what sort of reduction (if any) that Ware and his agent, Pat Dye, were willing to take in order to stay in Dallas. It sounds as if they were against any sort of pay cut.
They needed a decision by the time free-agency arrived at 3 p.m. They got their wish. The Dallas Cowboys cut a Ring of Honor candidate. See the press release below.
Given that no one really knows the answer to how much Ware was in decline last year or how much injuries contributed.
Jerry Jones chose not to shove today’s worries into next year’s cap. It’s possible that Ware signs with a 3-4 team, returns to his old outside linebacker position and goes to the 2014 Pro Bowl.
After all, someone drafted Ware in 2005 when head coach Bill Parcells was pushing for another outside linebacker, Shawne Merriman, who began his pro career with three straight Pro Bowl trips for San Diego. Merriman faded quickly after that. He retired from the NFL a year ago.
Ware, undoubtedly, has football left in him, but his decline in sacks the last two seasons (from 19.5 to 11.5 to 6) is a good indicator of which way he’s most likely headed.
The pertinent question now is: What do the Cowboys do?
They suddenly find themselves with $9 million in cap room, a figure that will grow beyond $14 million if wide receiver Miles Austin gets his official walking papers in June.
It’s almost certain Dallas will remain on the sidelines as the big free-agency dollars are passed out. That’s a good thing. The Cowboys’ plays as big spenders have almost never panned out, and the same goes for other clubs.
But they have to do something. And they have to absolutely nail their first two picks in a May draft that is filled with defensive linemen.
In hindsight, many Dallas Cowboys fans wish Jones has learned this lesson a year ago when he was giving all that money to Jay Ratliff, a failed attempt to placate the recalcitrant tackle.
Dallas Cowboys press release announcing release of DeMarcus Ware:
The Dallas Cowboys released defensive end DeMarcus Ware Tuesday. Ware, who was Dallas’ first first-round draft pick in 2005 (11th overall), is the club’s all-time sack leader (117.0). In his nine years with the team, Ware earned seven consecutive Pro Bowl appearances — tied for the fourth-longest streak in team history — and racked up seven straight seasons with 10 or more sacks (2006-12). Jared Allen (2007-13) is the only other league defender with seven consecutive 10-sack seasons since 2006.
A decision like this, involving a man who is a cornerstone player in the history of your franchise, is extremely difficult,” said Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones.
“After meeting this 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.
“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.”
In 2008 Ware established a club record and league-high 20.0 sacks, becoming only the seventh league defender to reach 20.0 in a season at the time and was named the 2008 NFC Defensive Player of the Year. En route to his 20.0 sacks in 2008, Ware put together a streak of 10 straight games (beginning in 2007) with at least one full sack, tying Simon Fletcher (1992-93) for the longest sack streak in NFL history.
In 2010 Ware led the league with 15.5 sacks to become only the fifth league defender to lead the NFL in sacks multiple times (Mark Gastineau, Reggie White, Kevin Greene and Michael Strahan). The very next season, Ware racked up 19.5 sacks to join Gastineau as the only league defenders with two seasons of 19.0-or-more sacks.
Through his nine seasons in Dallas, Ware posted the top-four single-season sack figures by a club linebacker – prior to making the switch to defensive end in 2013 – and four of the top-five single-season figures by any club defender.
Ware was a two-time winner of the Dick Butkus Award (honoring the league’s top linebackers). He won the first ever professional Butkus Award in 2008 and was a co-winner with Terrell Suggs in 2011. Ware was named All-Pro seven times, All-NFC three times, NFC Defensive Player of the Week four times, won the club’s Bob Lilly Award two times and was the team’s Man of the Year once.
Ware leaves Dallas with 710 tackles (ninth in club history), his club-best 117.0 sacks, 58 tackles for losses, 259 quarterback pressures and 32 forced fumbles – the most in club history since 1994 when the stat was first tracked.”
HEART ON HIS SHOULDER PADS: DeMarcus Ware’s grit and dedication to play injured leads shortened Dallas Cowboy career
Shoulder surgery last offseason. Elbow surgery this offseason. Nagging neck and back injuries, along with a reoccurring hamstring issue.
Oh, and there’s a quad injury in the middle of last season – the only injury to actually keep him out of a game.
Now as the seven-time Pro Bowler has been officially released by the Dallas Cowboys, you have to wonder if DeMarcus Ware wishes he would’ve missed more time. Maybe things could’ve been different.
In sports, we love the stories about Jack Youngblood playing in the Super Bowl with a broken leg. Or Willis Reed’s miraculous return to the court. And Curt Schilling pitching in the playoffs with a bloody sock. Don’t forget Michael Jordan playing in the NBA Finals with the flu.
Those are some of the moments that we’ll always remember. And it’s moments like those, and even ones closer to home like Emmitt Smith’s 1993 season finale against the Giants, that put the perception in our heads that players should always, without fail, do whatever it takes to get on the field.
But when it doesn’t work out so well, playing hurt can be costly.
Ware is now proof of that.
This guy probably had no business playing the last few games of the 2012 season, but his team was in a playoff push. So he pushed along. He played with a bad back, a bad hamstring, a bad shoulder and two bad elbows. And guess what, he wasn’t that great because of it.
Ware limped to the end of that year with 11.5 sacks.
By last summer he seemed completely recharged. He was an absolute beast in training camp, making some worry about offensive tackle Tyron Smith’s future because he was getting beat every snap it seemed.
Ware picked off the first pass of the season against the Giants and had four sacks in the first four games. Then, the injuries hit once again. And while I don’t think he was as ineffective at the end of this year compared to the previous one, he wasn’t the Ware we all remembered.
You have to wonder if things would now be different if he had just shut it down for one of those years. Say he can’t go at all and is placed on IR. Is the result the same?
We don’t know the answer to that, and we’ll ever get one. Sure, he’s still going to be labeled injury-prone but he wouldn’t have put average tape on himself in the process.
The Dallas Cowboys have some other guys on this team who don’t seem to play at less than 100 percent. They sit out until they’re ready to go and maybe that’s the right approach.
Ware missed three games in the middle of this year and came back for the Saints game, where it appeared the quad injury was still giving him problems. And that’s the nature of a quad injury. Yeah, you can get it good enough to play, but that’s where your power comes from. He never really had full strength in that leg the rest of the season.
And the elbows? That’s where your need your arms to bull-rush. He didn’t have elbow strength or quad strength, and therefore, he wasn’t beating many tackles, if any, by the end of the year.
Out of pride, and as someone trying not to make excuses, Ware told reporters last December he wasn’t hurt and vowed to play better. But he was hurt. He was more than hurt. But by saying that, it allows his critics to believe that he’s washed up because he’s not producing.
Well, maybe there’s a reason for it.
Who knows what’s next for Ware. Maybe his play has declined to the point where he’ll never be a factor. Maybe the injuries will be too much to overcome.
He tried to play through it last year and the year before and it didn’t work. In hindsight, it appears – without us being behind closed doors and not privy to all of the information – he’s been judged unfairly because of it.
But, good luck to him. DeMarcus Ware will eventually re-sign with the Dallas Cowboys, but probably for a one-deal before he goes into the Ring of Honor.
Related video …
Initial reaction to DeMarcus Ware’s release by the Dallas Cowboys | 4:57
VALLEY RANCH TRIAL SEPARATION: Despite his release, it’s still possible that the Dallas Cowboys could re-sign DeMarcus Ware
DeMarcus Ware is convinced he can make more money in free agency than the Dallas Cowboys are willing to pay, but is open to returning to the club if the market doesn’t support his stance.
Call it a trial separation.
Will that scenario unfold? It appears unlikely. There are quality teams with enough room under the salary cap to believe at least one of them will come up with the money that Ware seeks. Philadelphia is one potential suitor.
But today’s parting was described as amicable and no doors have been shut.
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 Dallas 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 club has told the seven-time Pro Bowler they want him on the roster in 2014 but at a base salary significantly less than the $12.25 million he was scheduled to receive.
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 this afternoon announcing Ware’s release.
“DeMarcus and I agreed on an understanding that would allow him to explore the options he will have for the 2014 season and beyond,’’ Jones said. “We were also in very strong agreement that playing for the Dallas Cowboys would be one of the options we would both be exploring.’’
It will not be a prolonged exploration. Both sides recognize the need to move swiftly. If Ware doesn’t return, the Dallas Cowboys must use the $7.4 million freed up by Ware’s release and the $1.1 million it already had to find his replacements at defensive end.
The relationship may continue. But for now, the two have parted ways.
HAPPY TRAILS COWBOY: DeMarcus Ware to put his boots under someone else’s bed | Dallas legend sacked after nine seasons
IRVING, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys’ leader in sacks is no longer a member of the franchise.
DeMarcus Ware, who’s gone to seven Pro Bowls and compiled 117 sacks in nine seasons with the Cowboys since being selected by Dallas in the first round of the 2005 draft, was released Tuesday.
“A decision like this, involving a man who is a cornerstone player in the history of your franchise, is extremely difficult,” said owner/general manager Jerry Jones in a statement.
Ware’s multiple restructures led to a $12.25 million base salary and $16 million cap hit for the 2014 season. By releasing Ware, one of the most decorated players to ever don a Cowboys jersey, the team saves $7.4 million in cap space.
The Cowboys were already $2 million under the cap after cutting Phil Costa, reworking the deal of Mackenzy Bernadeau and restructuring Tony Romo, Orlando Scandrick and Sean Lee. Ware reportedly wanted a decision made on his future before free agency began, and the Cowboys weren’t going to have him play on his current deal.
This move gives the Cowboys, who are set to lose Jason Hatcher and Anthony Spencer to free agency, much more room to work with to bring one of their own players back or to make a move in free agency. But it also means losing an icon who will go down as one of the all-time great defensive players in the game.
That doesn’t mean a return to Dallas is completely out of the question, according to Jones. But as free agency begins, Ware will get to test the market and the many options around the league.
“After meeting this 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,” Jones said. “We were also in very strong agreement that playing for the Dallas Cowboys would be one of the options we would both be exploring.”
Ware had a couple of hefty streaks snapped last season. He’d compiled seven straight double-digit sack seasons before falling down to six sacks in 2013, and he’d played in all 16 games in each of his first eight seasons before missing three games last year.
Injuries have been the story for Ware in recent seasons. He’s dealt with a plethora of different ones, including quad, hamstring, elbow, shoulder, neck and back problems the last two years alone. He’s undergone elbow and shoulder surgeries the last two offseasons and missed the first three games of his career with a quad strain.
The 2013 season began promisingly for Ware after a tremendous training camp. He was easily the standout defensive player in Oxnard, Calif., and he followed that up by compiling four sacks in the first three games of the regular season, becoming the team’s all-time sacks leader in the process. Then the injuries kicked in, and he had just two more sacks the rest of the way.
The Cowboys wanted to keep him for the 2014 season, but only at a reduced rate. His cap hit in 2014 would have been twice what it was the year prior. His base salary was just $840,000 and his cap hit was $8 million in 2013. The Cowboys decided to part ways with Ware and save cap space after a meeting between the two sides. They can save another $5.5 million in room if they designate Miles Austin, who’s set to count $8.25 million against the cap, a post-June 1 cut.
Ware’s release gives the Cowboys more money to work with, but they currently have no proven talent to replace a player on the outside of Ware’s caliber.
Among Ware’s many accomplishments and accolades are a 20-sack season in 2008, when he was named the NFC Defensive Player of the Year, and a 19.5-sack year just three seasons ago in 2011. Ware and Mark Gastineau are the only two players in league history with two seasons of 19 or more sacks.
“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,” Jones said. “He is worthy of our greatest respect, and we want what is best for him and his family.”
The Cowboys save cap space but lose a player many consider to be the face of the franchise. Even with Ware’s career-low six sacks, he still finished third on the team in the category in 2013.
With Spencer set to become a free agent, no other Dallas defensive end currently on the roster for the 2014 season has more than 10 career sacks. George Selvie would be the leader with exactly 10 after last year’s seven-sack season.
DALLAS COWBOYS NFL SALARY CAP: Team under 2014-2015 cap after releasing Phil Costa and renegotiating Mackenzy Bernadeau contract | DeMarcus Ware and Miles Austin decisions pending
IRVING, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys are now under the salary cap after cutting the center many thought could be the starter prior to last year’s draft.
The Cowboys cut Phil Costa and renegotiated the contract of Mackenzy Bernadeau on Friday, putting themselves in better position financially prior to the start of free agency on March 11, which is the beginning of the new league year and the time all teams must be under the cap.
The restructuring of Tony Romo, Orlando Scandrick and Sean Lee already saved the Cowboys more than $16 million in cap space, and the move to release Costa saves another $1.5 million. Despite their continual cap restraints, the Dallas Cowboys will have no issue being under the new cap figure next week.
Costa appeared in only six games the last two seasons after starting all 16 games at center in 2011. He started three games at center in 2012 before injuries cut his season short. Costa, who signed a two-year deal worth $2.7 million last year, appeared in three games in 2013, but rookie Travis Frederick started all 16 games at center.
Costa’s been with the Cowboys since signing in Dallas as an undrafted free agent in 2010 out of Maryland, playing in a total of 26 games with 20 starts. He didn’t take a pay cut, and the Cowboys decided to part ways with the center to help get under the cap.
The Cowboys also saved cap space by renegotiating Bernadeau, who came on strong at the end of the 2013 season after getting replaced by Brian Waters. Bernadeau started the first three games of the season before the change was made, and the offensive line remained a strong point of the team when Bernadeau returned to the starting lineup for the final eight games of the season. Bernadeau will challenge for a starting guard spot in 2014.
The Dallas Cowboys sat high above the projected cap figure just weeks ago but figured out a way to get under the cap relatively smoothly and much more easily than many (in the media) anticipated.
If nothing changes, Ware will count $16 million against the cap and Austin will count $8.25 million against the cap. The Cowboys can save $7.4 million by releasing Ware and $5.5 million by designating Austin a post-June 1 cut. Of course, the Dallas Cowboys could also rework Ware’s deal to save cap space if he’s willing to cooperate on a reduction.
RELATED: DeMarcus Ware will listen to Dallas Cowboys offer
Former Pro Bowl defensive end DeMarcus Ware doesn’t want to take a pay cut but will listen to the Dallas Cowboys thoughts about a restructured deal.
He also hopes for a quick resolution.
The Cowboys informed Ware and representatives earlier this week about their need to lower his salary and cap figure. Ware is due a base salary of $12.25 million in 2014 with a salary cap hit of $16 million. The team would save $7.8 million if they cut Ware.
However, the Cowboys say they want the team’s all-time leading sacker back in 2014.
Ware will be 32 next season and recently underwent surgery for second consecutive off season. He had a career-low six sacks in 2013 when he has hampered by neck, quad and elbow injuries.
Ware expects to be back to his old dominant ways after surgery to repair nerve damage in his elbow last month. He will listen to the Cowboys thoughts on a restructured deal but remains hesitant about taking a major shave in salary.
Ware, who is shoo-in for the Cowboys’ hallowed Ring of Honor and likely future Hall of Famer, is expecting to draw a lot of interest on the free-agent market if he is released.
A decision on Ware would allow them to set a game plan for the start of free agency.
The Cowboys must address the defensive end position in the draft and free agency. Without Ware, it makes the situation even more acute because there are no players on the roster with his talent or prior production.
Even during an injury-plagued and limited 2013 campaign, Ware was ranked by Pro Football Focus as the ninth-most productive 4-3 defensive end as a pass-rusher and third in run-stop percentage. Ware was picked 11th overall by the Dallas Cowboys in 2005 NFL Draft. He has 117 sacks in nine years to rank first in team history and 18th in NFL history.
COWBOYS CALENDAR COUNTDOWN: 2014-2015 NFL season officially begins on March 11th | Tough decisions looming with Dallas’ free agents
IRVING, Texas – In other sports, this is the month where pen goes to paper for a bracket, or teams are playing sunny practice games at spring training.
In the NFL, the month of March has its own madness with the upcoming start of the new league year, which is the beginning of free agency. That officially takes place on March 11 this year, but this is also the time when things start happening around the league. High-profile guys will get cut, possibly sign new deals or in some cases, both.
The franchise tag deadline passed on Monday with the Cowboys, to no one’s surprise, choosing not to tag any of their players. Anthony Spencer had been tagged in each of the last two years, but after undergoing microfracture surgery, he’s just hoping to get back healthy enough to play football this season, whether it’s with the Cowboys or another team that signs the unrestricted free agent-to-be.
What to do with Spencer is one of many decisions the Dallas Cowboys have to make here in the next few days. In fact, Spencer might be the last guy the Cowboys decide about, considering he will be a free agent on March 11 but far from healthy. If teams, including the Cowboys, choose to pay big bucks to Spencer, it’ll be with a hope that he can return to form.
But there are plenty of other guys on whom the Cowboys must decide. Let’s break down the team’s free agents and other players who could be cut or have their salaries restructured and/or lowered this month.
Miles Austin – The most likely offseason scenario involves Austin, an eight-year veteran who was once a fan favorite when he burst onto the scene in 2009. A two-time Pro Bowler, Austin’s career has spiraled downward as hamstring injuries have taken their toll. It’s not really about if the Cowboys cut Austin, but when. If they make him a June 1 cut, it can’t happen until March 11. They can save about $5.5 million on the cap, which won’t come off the books until June. That will still be plenty for the Cowboys to sign their draft picks and maybe other cap-casualties that occur in the summer.
DeMarcus Ware – Probably the biggest decision the Cowboys have to make this year, and perhaps in the last several years. Ware has been one of the more consistent and dominant players in franchise history, but injuries have slowed him down the last two seasons. Ware is coming off elbow surgery this offseason, and it’s clear the Cowboys don’t want him to count $16 million on the cap. If the two sides can come to an agreement for a lower base salary, Ware will probably agree to that and stay. But if the Cowboys try to trim too much off his $12.25 million base, Ware could decide against that and be released. That move saves the Cowboys $7.5 million on the cap this year. And there wouldn’t be a reason to make him a June 1, considering they would need to use that extra cap space in free agency now.
Justin Durant – The veteran linebacker was a solid player last season, but with DeVonte Holloman and Kyle Wilber both showing enough promise late last year, coupled with the $1.2 million the Dallas Cowboys save by cutting Durant, it seems likely he will not return in 2014 – at least not at that price.
Phil Costa – Like Durant, here’s another player that will probably be on his way out. Costa backed up Travis Frederick and is scheduled to make $1.5 in base salary. Perhaps they could restructure that and lower his base but at that price, a $1.725 million cap charge, it’s likely Costa will be released.
Key Unrestricted Free Agents:
Jason Hatcher – One of the top defensive linemen on the free-agent market, he’ll be 32 when the season starts and that could affect his payday. Don’t rule out the Cowboys getting back into the mix if Hatcher doesn’t get the early-market cash he’s seeking.
Anthony Spencer – This will be interesting because of the nature of his injury. Microfracture surgery won’t be an easy rehab for any player, but Spencer has enough time to get ready for the start of the season. The Cowboys will know his rehab process better than anyone, so they should be the favorites to re-sign him. The key will be how much risk teams like the Cowboys will take by paying him and how much of a pay cut or below-market price will Spencer be willing to accept.
Danny McCray – The Cowboys’ best special teams player over the last four years has been beat up here of late. Injuries have been tough to overcome for McCray, who has proven he is more of a special teams ace only. Likely to sign somewhere else, look for the Bears to have interest with former special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis in Chicago.
Ernie Sims – He filled some voids for this team, but with the development of Wilber and Holloman, don’t expect Sims back in the mix anytime soon. The Cowboys tried to go in another direction last year, but he played too well in training camp to get released.
Brian Waters – The veteran guard hasn’t publicly made a decision on his future, which could include retirement. Waters has not undergone biceps surgery and might not at all if he decides to retire. If he does choose to play, he will likely time it out right so he’ll miss camp but be ready for the season. The Cowboys have to move on mentally, but if he chooses to play, Waters could end up back in Dallas for the right price.
Jarius Wynn – He could be back in 2014, but probably for nothing more than the veteran minimum. But he played well at times last season and since defensive end is a need, Wynn could be a solid option, considering his development last year and his current knowledge of the system.
DALLAS COWBOYS INJURY UPDATE: Defensive end George Selvie is fourth player who underwent offseason surgery
Add George Selvie to the list of 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys players who underwent offseason surgery.
Selvie, who popped up on the injury report toward the middle of the season with a shoulder issue, went ahead and got surgery on the shoulder after fighting through the injury to play in all 16 games last season. He also battled back problems late in the year.
The defensive end still started every game for the injured Anthony Spencer and wound up with seven sacks, finishing second on the team in the category, after arriving with the team in training camp.
Selvie’s previous high in sacks was 1.5 his rookie year in 2010. This was by far the most productive season of his stint in the NFL. He also forced the first fumble of his career.
He’s among a handful of Dallas Cowboys to undergo offseason surgeries in an attempt to be ready as quickly as possible when the team reconvenes for offseason workouts.
Other players are expected to get minor surgeries before the start of next season, including DeMarcus Ware. He hasn’t undergone a scope on his elbow, as he indicated was a likelihood after the season, but that plan could still change.
In the aftermath of the Dallas Cowboys 24-22 season-ending loss to the Eagles Sunday night, defensive end DeMarcus Ware said he would consider taking a pay cut to help the team manage the salary cap.
(Editors comment: No, he didn’t say that. The media twisted his words. DeMarcus Ware expressed his willingness to help restructure his contract to help the Dallas Cowboys salary cap).
Ware clarified those comment Monday.
“The question was with the salary cap stuff and everything, would you be able to maneuver some things in your contract,” Ware said. “I said I’ll do what I need to do to help the team out. It’s nothing new to me. But pay cut and restructure are two different things. You hear what I’m saying. Clar-i-fy.”
So you didn’t say pay cut?
“No, I didn’t say that,” Ware said. “I said I will do whatever I need to do to maneuver some things around to help the team out. I’m for that.”
Ware is scheduled to make a base salary of $12.2 million next season including a $500,000 workout bonus. Ware’s 2014 cap figure is $16 million.
The looming question is how much Ware is worth at this point. He had just six sacks in 2013, his fewest since his rookie year 2005.
Ware also battled elbow, quad and back injuries this year. He plans to have surgery to clean up issues with his elbow in the off season.
But he will be 32 next season and there is also a question of whether he has lost a step.
“Not at all. Not at all,” Ware said. “Like going back into training camp, I felt better than I have in a long time. Then the little injuries happen with the quad and your elbow and your back so you sit back and think about what can I do now this off-season to make sure this doesn’t happen again, because I know exactly where I can be and how I can play. Injuries took a toll on me a lot this season. But that’s no excuse because I got out there and played. I’ve got to figure out some way to get healthy this off-season for next season.”
DeMarcus Ware postgame interview: I will do whatever I need to help team out
NO CHANGE, FOR THE SAKE OF CHANGE: Veterans express faith in Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett
IRVING, Texas – A third straight 8-8 season hasn’t lost the core veterans’ faith in Jason Garrett.
“When you think about the thing that he brings to the team, him being a great leader to us, motivating us, each and every week no matter what the circumstance is, he’s had three seasons where he’s been 8-8 and not part of the NFC East championship, but that lets you know that he is there,” Ware said. “We do have opportunities and we can’t forget that. He’s a great coach and I’m behind him 100 percent.”
It appears their owner/general manager feels the same way, as Jerry Jones has stated his belief in Garrett and how he’s decided to move forward with Garrett regardless of the bitter ending.
Jones said records don’t always indicate the talent of a coach. He also pointed to the fact that the Dallas Cowboys have been in position to win the division three straight years, rather than the fact that they failed to cash in on that opportunity every time.
If frustration would build on any group of players, it’s the veterans who’ve been through the consistent disappointments for years upon years. That group would include Witten, but he’s also behind his head coach entirely.
He said it’s reassuring to hear Jones’ faith in Garrett and the likelihood of the head coach sticking around. Meanwhile, six other coaches were immediately canned after a failed season, including Mike Shanahan with the NFC East rival Redskins.
“I think the guys in this locker room would do anything for Coach Garrett,” Witten said. “We’re so fortunate to have him. You want to win for each other, but you also want to win for a guy that pours everything into your football team for a head coach and gives you every opportunity.”
Witten said he understands it’s a bottom-line business, and the bottom line is the Cowboys haven’t made the playoffs with three straight opportunities in Week 17 win-or-go-home games. But he’s glad to hear from Jones that Garrett will likely have another chance to change that fate.
“That was great for me to hear and I think for our team to hear, because he’s very well respected in this locker room and guys are all in for him as the head coach,” Witten said.
From 5-3 to 8-8 to 8-8 to 8-8, it’s difficult to point to or to justify significant progress made during Garrett’s tenure as a head coach when looking at wins and losses. But while the record wouldn’t show it, Witten said there has been progress in some areas.
“Last year, we didn’t run the ball very well,” he said. “This year, we proved that we could. There’s different things. We didn’t turn the ball over very much.”
Ultimately, though, he knows the Dallas Cowboys need to find ways to not just say things need to change. He said the Cowboys have to find ways to do it and come out the other end.
Rather than focus on yet another late season defeat, Cowboys players said Garrett’s final message centered more on how proud he was of the group and to be a part of their journey. But the tone from his head coach and his owner both weren’t cheery.
“There’s a tone of disappointment from everybody because of the way we ended the season,” Ware said. “But you can’t sort of look at it and be so negative about that, knowing that you had the guys in place to get the job done but you just didn’t pull it through. There were, I don’t know, five games where we lost within either a point or two.”
In total, the 2013 Dallas Cowboys finished 2-5 in games decided by three points or fewer and 1-4 in games decided by two points or fewer.
“You’ve got to be able to look and think about, ‘What could we have done to get over that hump and win those games?’ Ware said. “That’s what you’ve got to think about this offseason and let that be the motivating factor to keep pushing.”
COWBOYS @ REDSKINS PRIMER: Jason Garrett press conference | 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys game 15 | Thursday
Jason Garrett Press Conference: Cowboys vs. Redskins | Thursday Practice (15:52)
- Coach Jason Garrett’s gift from Dallas media
- What challenges Washington QB Kirk Cousins presents for the Dallas Cowboys
- Without much tape (game film), what goes into game planning against Cousins
- What can be done to get DeMarcus Ware going again; injury status
- Pass rush and quarterback pressure with defensive line
- Assessment on Heath and Wilcox the past few weeks
- Lack of experience at safety in some games this season
- Effects of two back-to-back losses; seeing results of team mentality win/lose
- Signs that Tony Romo will bounce back from Green Bay loss
- Teams Cross-Training philosophy that begins every preseason
- Comparing the challenges of injuries this season compared to last year
- Recent messages from team leaders up and in front of teammates
- DeVonte Holloman’s adaption to MLB and difference in responsibilities
- Why Jason Hatcher popped back up on todays injury report
- Importance and recent success of scoring on the opening drive
- Progress of OL since DeMarco Murray went out 6-8 weeks ago and returned
- Recent incorporation of Gavin Escobar into offense, his progress to date
- How having Escobar might help the Cowboys offense with Williams dinged up
- Murray wanting opportunities to ‘finish’ games
- Positive/Negative reinforcement style with recent tough losses
- How much pressure is on the offense to put up points with latest defense issues
- What it means to the team with Tyron Smith playing so well at left tackle
- Travis Frederick progress and grade on film
- How does this OL compare to the other lines Jason Garrett has had during his tenure
- If worried about Travis Frederick hitting a wall with his development
2013-2014 MEDIA DAY: Dallas Cowboys vs. Washington Redskins | 5:18
2013-2014 MEDIA DAY: Dallas Cowboys vs. Washington Redskins | 5:22
Jason Garrett press conference: Game breakdown after game film review (23:20)
- How Jason Garrett asserts himself in game time offensive decisions
- Why it’s hard to remain (appear) stubborn regarding the run in running situations
- Any way to defend Tony Romo switching to the pass when a run is called
- What Jason Garrett could have done differently to prevent that (turnover) from happening
- Communication during an actual call in critical situations (run, no pass option veto)
- How often has Jason Garrett told Tony Romo specifically what to do on a play call
- Instead of hindsight, why aren’t adjustment decisions made during the course of the game
- Second guessing Escobar not being in-motion to block the sack on Romo
- Any point in the second half where Jason Garrett was second guessing
- If he feels like he signaled Tony Romo out in the postgame press conference (below)
- Steps to put the “overlay” into decisions during critical situations (situational awareness)
- How ineffective 3rd downs affect decisions with play calling on 2nd downs
- DeMarco Murray’s sideline frustration in 2nd half; disservice to him by not running
- How Dez Bryant decision to leave field was addressed; thoughts on issue
- Was Dez Bryant fined by the team (for leaving the field early)
- Is play calling/game planning being driven by inability to stop teams from scoring
- Is this defense forcing the offense to become more aggressive
- Does offensive gameplan change at halftime when headset goes down; Rookies
- Why was DeMarcus Ware so ineffective in the Green Bay game
- How concerned is Jason Garrett about the secondary; Morris Claiborne
- Was pass rush improvement seen in this game compared to Chicago game last week
- How DeMarco Murray’s run percentage plays are factored in to each game
- The specifics of the play where Cole Beasley was targeted, but resulted in an INT
- What do you say to fans that are looking for reasons to be optimistic going forward
- Sense of urgency factors placed on players/coaches because of recent losses
- Challenges of harnessing the negatives from last two losses; how to move forward
- Dealing with issue of not having top-four linebackers going into the Redskins game
- DeMarcus Ware getting some 1-on-1’s and still not getting sacks; Is he still a stud
- Has DeMarcus Ware lost some of his explosiveness
- Explaining decisions to take Jason Hatcher/Ware off the DL in certain situations/subs
- Biggest reason they have been able to run the ball for the past few weeks
- Recent communication with Jerry Jones regarding job security
- Confidence in veterans and leaders on the team
- Even with the recent losses, who still gives Jason Garrett confidence
- When history has show they haven’t gotten the job done in these loosing situations
THE NEXT MAN UP: Jason Garrett’s 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys find a way to win, even without centerpiece Sean Lee on the field
The Dallas Cowboys are 2-0 without Sean Lee in the middle of the defense, but it’s not like his influence has not been felt.
DeMarcus Ware said Lee remains a big presence everywhere except the field, continuing to work with his replacement, Ernie Sims, like a coach.
“When you have guys like Lee still in there, in the meeting rooms, still teaching Ernie what to do – everybody in this league is athletic – but if you can instill what you do mentally first, especially like Sean Lee, he’s showing them so many things and what to key on, and they’ve gotten better,” Ware said after the Thanksgiving Day victory against Oakland. “He’s still there, but just in another person’s body, of Ernie’s or whatever.”
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said Lee has been missed, but there have been benefits.
“It caused us to do some moving around a little bit,” he said. “It’s probably caused us to see Wilber, who was steady against the Giants and again tonight. That may be a blessing for us.”
Lee said the defense has played “fantastic” without him.
“I think it shows you have a lot of guys who have worked hard, who have stepped up – guys like Kyle Wilber and Ernie Sims, who put in a ton of work,” he said. “And you have to give them a ton of credit, because they’ve been a huge reason why we’ve been able to win these two football games.”
Sean Lee said he is on track to play in the next game, Dec. 9 at Chicago.
Dallas Cowboys Defensive Line Breakdown
This article is part of a series. To see all related posts, click HERE. Enjoy!
Top Performer: Jason Hatcher
When Monte Kiffin and Rod Marinelli were brought on board after the conclusion of the 2012 season, their vision of what this defensive line was going to consist of was a four man line of DeMarcus Ware, Jay Ratliff, Anthony Spencer, and Jason Hatcher. As they sit today, only Ware and Hatcher are currently in the mix. The offseason ranking of these four players were: Ware, Spencer, Ratliff, and Hatcher.
To his credit, Hatcher has gone far and above what most believed that he could have done. We really wasn’t sure where he was going to play in this scheme, whether that was the one or three technique. Likely, the front office and coaches were having the same thoughts. Few believed he was going to be able to play with enough power at the one. To his credit, he has proven people wrong. That’s not to say that’s his best spot, because at the three he has also done things thought that he couldn’t have done. It was very evident without him in the lineup against the Saints. His ability to help in the run but maybe more importantly, was how well he rushes the passer inside was missing.
What Jason Hatcher has done through his play is make this front office sit up and take notice when it comes to making a decision on his future with this team.
Need More From: DeMarcus Ware
Right or wrong, on the radio show “Talkin’ Cowboys”, DeMarcus Ware was challenged to once again rise up and be the player that we all have seen in seasons gone by. This young defense needs that kind of player.
When Ware was lining up in those practices in Oxnard, it appeared that Ware had turned the clock back five years and this season could turn out to be one of his best ever. Injury has once again robbed him of that opportunity. Ware showed a great deal of guts playing last season at half the player he is capable of being and this year, could very well be the same. As hard as this to say for a player that has given his team so much, he is going to have to dig deeper and find ways to not only be a factor in the running game but be that dominate player against the pass.
This scheme requires pressure from its front four and without that pressure, it is difficult to have success in it. If this team in fact are going to make a run in these last six games and win this division, it is going to be on the shoulders of Sean Lee and DeMarcus Ware. For six games, this defense needs DeMarcus Ware’s very best otherwise we will all be talking about what could have been.
Six-Game Forecast: Defensive linemen cant rely on safety net to stop the run
There have been some difficult games for this defensive line this season. There have also been some times where they have played well and helped this team to a victory. The road doesn’t get much easier with three division games and the matchup with the Bears and Packers remaining.
What worries the most about this group is the ability to get off blocks in the running game especially the last three weeks against the Lions, Vikings and Saints. There have been too many games this season where this defense has allowed offenses to be in manageable down and distance situations because of their inability to hold up against the run. For the next six week, this defensive line is going to be tested each and every snap to have to be physical in playing in the running game and with Sean Lee out at least the next two games, there is not that safety net of him being there to make plays.
This line needs to do a much better job of playing on the other side of the ball like they did against the Redskins and Eagles, which then will help them with their pressure in the passing game.
Dallas Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Ware said a team like the Saints will take advantage of a defense that doesn’t have its most experienced players, like the Cowboys on Sunday night.
“I mean, when you have five guys, six of the starters out, the best way to fix it is get your guys back,” Ware said, asked what the Cowboys can do to get better following the 49-17 loss. “Sometimes you have guys in there who sort of don’t know what they’re doing because it’s probably their first time playing in a long time. When you have a team that doesn’t make mistakes and sort of exposes you that way, with those guys that are in the game, that’s what they did. So you’ve got to get the guys back who know what’s going on and use that bye week to make a big push.”
Ware said the scheme is fine.
“It’s the play. You’ve got to be fundamentally sound,” he said. “It’s so simple, but the thing is you’ve got to be fundamentally sound when you’re doing it.”
Ware said it was a helpless feeling for him when he wasn’t in the game. He aggravated his quadriceps injury on a sack in the second quarter and was in and out of the game. He said the leg is good, however.
“I’m doing everything I can not to let it happen again,” he said. “It was something minor on the sack. The play I got the sack, it’s just my knee hit the ground and tweaked it a little bit, and it was like that the whole game.”
Ware said he’s optimistic about playing in the Giants game, and he looked back on the season as a whole as the Dallas Cowboys hit their bye week.
“It was a lot of ups and downs,” he said. “There wasn’t enough consistency like we needed. Right now we’re half and half. We’re at 5-5. We’ve got to find some way to take this bye weekend and rejuvenate ourselves, get all the guys back and come to the table with a relentless demeanor of trying to win every game out.”