During the early part of the 2005 NFL Draft, the Cowboys were armed with two first round picks (11th & 20th). They had an extra pick in round 1 due to a 2004 draft day trade with the Buffalo Bills that allowed the Bills to use the 22nd overall selection to choose J.P. Losman. For the Cowboys troubles, the team received Buffalo’s 2nd and 5th round pick in 2004, and their 1st round selection in 2005. While Bill Parcells wanted to select Shawne Merriman, Marcus Spears, or Roger Delair at 11, Jerry Jones overruled Parcells and the Dallas Cowboys proceeded to select DeMarcus Ware at 11. With their next selection at 20, Parcells would get his second choice of Marcus Spears.
Ware has been a great selection for the team, and should see his #94 go into the AT&T Stadium Ring of Honor, and should be a first ballot hall of famer. Ware spent the entirety of his career at OLB, which he has played great in. Converted to a 4-3 defensive end this season, it’s a downright shame that we haven’t been able to see a healthy Ware to find out just how truly terrifying he could have been. Ware is the Cowboys all-time leader of sacks at 115, having just recently passed Cowboys legend Harvey Martin earlier this season.
With this being Ware’s ninth NFL season, Ware has yet to miss a game in his pro career. Unfortunately, it looks as if that streak will end this upcoming Sunday in Philadelphia. Ware played relatively injury free his first few seasons in the league, but suffered his first major injury in December 2009, which was a sprained neck/neck stinger. Ever since that first incurrment of the injury, it has reoccurred at different points each season since. The stingers cause Ware’s limbs to go numb for an unspecified period of time when the injury is aggravated. In 2012, Ware had hamstring issues, fractured right wrist, hyperextended elbow, and a torn labrum. In 2013, Ware has been battling numerous injuries, and has not looked right ever since the third game of the season against St. Louis. Ware missed huge chunks of time in Weeks 4 & 5 against San Diego and Denver respectively. Ware finally pulled up lame in the first half against the Washington Redskins this past Sunday Night with a quad injury.
Ware has hopes to try and rush himself back to suit up to play in a week or two. However, if he does that he will be battling injuries through the rest of the season and won’t be the monster presence on the edge the Cowboys need him to be. It would be in the Cowboys best interest if Ware sat out a month and got himself as well rested as possible. At this point, Ware simply cannot be an every down player anymore. The Cowboys need to protect themselves and Ware from himself, and limit him to 30 or so snaps per game, and only in pass rush situations.
Ware signed a six year, $78 million contract extension in October 2009 that included over $40 million guaranteed and runs through 2015. However, the Cowboys have restructured this contract numerous times since the signing, so there is no telling how far past 2015 the Cowboys have pushed back Ware’s money. The Cowboys have multiple deals with aging players that will make managing their cap situation the next few years very, very difficult, and going into the free agent market almost downright impossible. One bad deal given to Jay Ratliff was released from the roster yesterday. The remaining cap hit ($6.93 million) will take place in the 2014 season, and Ratliff will totally be off the books in 2015. Miles Austin will be the next tough decision to make on a big contract extension gone wrong. Hopefully the Cowboys and Ware can find a common ground this offseason on a restructured deal, similar to what Doug Free and the team did this past summer where the remaining dollar amount was cut in half. Ware is still a great player, just not for 60 minutes, 90 snaps, in a 16 week NFL schedule. Ware has been my favorite Cowboy for numerous seasons now. I hate seeing him not be healthy, because the talent is definitely still there to contribute at a high level for multiple seasons, if his minutes and role are managed correctly.
Follow Craig Cortemeglia on Twitter at @ccortemegliaTLH