Defensive end DeMarcus Ware has long been a cornerstone of the Dallas Cowboys defense, but declining production, advancing age and a swollen salary cap could force the team to reevaluate his standing moving this offseason, according to a report by Todd Archer of ESPN Dallas.
The Cowboys are roughly $25 million over the projected 2014 salary cap of $127.6 million, and need to make serious cuts to their swollen payroll to get back under (and even more if they plan on making free agent signings). Ware is scheduled to make $12.25 million this season and will cost $16.003 million against the cap. The Cowboys will undoubtedly have to address his contract — the question is whether they will do so by restructuring it or dumping it altogether.
Archer reports the Cowboys could free up $7.4 million by releasing him. They could gain $8.6 million by restructuring, though that would increase his cap amount in future years.
Had Ware put up his customary double-digit sack total in 2013, the decision to restructure would likely be an easy one. Instead, he posted a career-low six sacks, the first time he has been under 10 since his rookie season in 2005. Ware dealt with nagging injuries all season, and at 32 years old, those issues may only increase with age.
Head coach Jason Garrett said the team would approach offseason moves by first evaluating players from a football persepective, then consider their financial burdens.
"Money matters in the salary-cap era we're in right now. But I do believe the football evaluation is primary, and then you add that [financial] element into it, and then you make your best decisions for your team in regards to that player and how he fits in your team."
How much say Garrett actually gets in Jerry Jones' micromanaged organization is up for debate, but it will certainly be Jones who has the final say in Ware's future. The owner was critical of Ware during a slump in December, saying he expected more production from the star defender.