Earlier in the week, the Dallas Cowboys made one of the most difficult decisions in franchise history, releasing one of the greatest players to ever wear a star on his helmet, DeMarcus Ware.
In reality, the Cowboys simply couldn’t justify paying Ware, who turns 32 in July and had a career low six sacks in 2013, slightly over $12 million (he was set to count $16.003 against the 2014 cap, with a base salary of $12.25 million). While the Cowboys would’ve liked to keep Ware at a reduced rate, Ware refused to take a pay cut (and did not owe the Cowboys to do so), and hit the open market as free agency opened.
While the Cowboys made the right decision regarding Ware, he landed in the absolute worst spot for them, from the standpoint of attempting to justify their move to a legion of incensed fans.
Ware’s new team, the Denver Broncos, appear to be the proud owners of some very incriminating photos of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, allowing them to give out huge contracts with no regard for the salary cap that the rest of the league must abide by (I kid, I kid. I’m sure in two years, when quarterback Peyton Manning retires, the Broncos will be forced to field a team made up of the cast from the movie The Replacements. They want to win now, and they’ll face the consequences in the future.). While Dallas couldn’t reasonably pay Ware what his contract called for, he’s actually getting a RAISE from Denver, which most people (the Cowboys included, most likely) did not see coming.
Furthermore, Ware landed in an ideal situation for an aging, all-time great pass-rusher. In Denver, he’ll will be paired with Von Miller, who many consider to be the best linebacker in the NFL (he’s in the discussion). There aren’t many places in the NFL that Ware could’ve gone where we would be the SECOND pass-rush threat that teams have to worry about. He also won’t have to be an every-down player, and could be used a pass-rush specialist, keeping him fresh and allowing Denver to get the most out of him.
In case you hadn’t noticed, the Denver offense is pretty good, too. What does the production of a pass-rushing linebacker have to do with his own team’s offense? The Broncos opponents are likely to be playing a LOT of games from behind, and trying to keep up with Denver’s high-octane, high-scoring offense. A pass-rusher’s best friend is an opposing offense that is forced to pass. Pin your ears back, lick your chops, and take off for the quarterback.
When you combine all of those factors, they create a perfect storm, and it’s definitely reasonable to forecast that Ware could put up “DeMarcus Ware” numbers in Denver, in the vicinity of 15 sacks or so. That will inevitably lead to (even more) second-guessing and criticism of the Cowboys, and their decision to allow the franchise’s all-time sack leader to walk. And most of that criticism will be unfair and unfounded, because Ware wouldn’t have been the same player in Dallas.
Prepare yourself for Ware to have a great season, and be happy for his success, but don’t assume that he would’ve had the same impact in Dallas, because it’s likely not true.
(Also: be happy that he signed in the AFC, with a team that isn’t on the Cowboys 2014 schedule. Cowboys fans can still root for him, with no guilt!)