The Dallas Cowboys are considering cutting defensive end DeMarcus Ware.
Let that sink in for a minute.
Cut Ware, the team’s all-time leader in sacks, a certain Ring of Honor inductee and a likely shoo-in to one day be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame?
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This is not going to end well.
Before we even consider what Ware has done in the past and what he means to the franchise, let’s look at the on-field bottom line.
The Cowboys are not a better team without Ware.
As much as he struggled this past season because of a variety of injuries that limited his production to a career-low six sacks, consider the depth chart at defensive end without him.
The only other ends signed to contracts are George Selvie, Tyrone Crawford, Caesar Rayford and Tristan Okpalaugo.
That’s it. That’s the list.
Think the Redskins, Giants and Eagles are shaking in their boots?
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones understands as much.
It’s one reason why he brought up the prospect of who the Cowboys would take the field with if they were without Ware when he discussed the topic with reporters at the scouting combine in Indianapolis a little over a week ago.
But as much as Jones couldn’t fathom the thought of opening the season without Ware, he acknowledged that the Cowboys have a tough decision to make regarding Ware’s contract that certainly puts in play the possibility of Ware not being on the team in 2014.
There is no denying the bottom line of the Cowboys’ seemingly untenable financial obligations to Ware. He has a base salary of $12.25 next season with a salary cap hit of $16 million.
He will be 32 in 2014 and coming off the worst numbers of his career and a second consecutive off-season surgery.
And for a team in salary cap hell for the umpteenth year, they need to address Ware’s numbers.
The question is how do you do it?
They could restructure his deal, as they have done in the past, by turning his base salary into a bonus, thus lowering his cap number for 2014. This move pushes out money into futures, thus delaying the inevitable salary cap bite.
They could ask him to take a pay cut or they could cut him, picking up $7.4 million in cap room.
The distasteful take-or-leave situation of take a pay cut or be cut seems to be the decision that’s weighing heavy on the Cowboys and the one they are considering the most.
This is where things will get ugly.
Ware stated after the season that he had no intention of taking a pay cut.
And sources close to Ware indicated that he still has no plans to do so.
A little advice for Jones and vice president and cap manipulator Stephen Jones, who seems to pushing hard for a pay cut: Be careful. Be very careful.
This is DeMarcus Ware.
This is not Terrell Owens, who was cut via a table cloth.
This is different than the Miles Austin situation, who might already be cut if he didn’t get married last weekend.
This is DWare.
More important, he is a guy who will likely be coveted on the open market.
Think New Orleans and Rob Ryan, where he would get a chance to play outside linebacker in the 3-4.
Think the New York Jets and Rex Ryan.
The Houston Texans would also seem to be an attractive option even without Wade Phillips, especially if they don’t draft Jadeveon Clowney No. 1.
Could you imagine J.J. Watt and Ware on opposite sides?
With all due respect to Anthony Spencer and even Jason Hatcher, Ware has never played alongside another pass rusher who required double teams.
Even an injured Ware would have gotten more than six sacks in that arrangement a year ago.
And now we are talking about a Ware, whom, if what the doctors are saying is true, should be good as new and back to his old dominant ways after elbow surgery a couple of weeks ago.
One thing Jones pointed out last week as a key to any decision on Ware was if he still had his legs because they are so important to a pass rusher.
Well, Ware’s legs really weren’t the major problem for him last year. It was a nerve issue in his elbow that robbed him of all his power.
If Ware is going to be back to his dominant ways, it better be in a Cowboys uniform.
There’s an even more important part of the equation that Jones mentioned as it relates to the team. The Cowboys don’t have the time or the luxury to rebuild with Tony Romo at quarterback.
It’s not about the future. It’s about now.
Everyone understands they want to salvage some money and not push it all into the future.
But this team has no future to speak of.
Coach Jason Garrett has no future promised beyond this year.
The same likely goes for Romo and tight end Jason Witten if the Cowboys don’t make the playoffs.
Romo, Witten, Ware. They are this generation’s version of the Triplets.
They grew up together under Bill Parcells, rose to prominence under Phillips and suffered as underachievers together in their inability to win when it matters most as Phillips departed and Garrett took over.
They deserve one more bite at the apple together.
There is no other decision to make.