Cowboys should keep DeMarcus Ware

February, 27, 2014
Feb 27
4:00
PM ET
One more chance.

The Cowboys' biggest offseason decision concerns defensive end DeMarcus Ware.

The team can't afford to have Ware count $16 million on their salary cap, which is stretched as it is. His base salary of $12.2 million is too much.

[+] EnlargeDeMarcus Ware has reached double-digit sacks for seven consecutive seasons, but he'll need four sacks in the final three games to keep the streak alive.
AP Photo/James D. SmithDeMarcus Ware had a subpar year in 2013 by his standards, but he was hampered by injuries.
The team has to lower his cap number and Stephen Jones, the team's executive vice president, has said so.

How to do it?

  • A restructure would create salary-cap space by spreading out his $12.2 million base salary over a few years.
  • The team could release Ware and save $7.4 million.
  • The Cowboys could offer Ware a pay cut by splitting his base salary in half with a two-year deal. Right tackle Doug Free did this last year.

The Cowboys are projected to be $20 million over the salary cap, which is estimated to be $130 million for 2014 and every little savings helps.

Cutting Ware won't help the Cowboys on the field. Off of the field with finances, sure, but don't blame Ware for some of the bad contracts -- Miles Austin's $54 million deal to name one -- that have the Cowboys struggling with the salary cap.

Ware has been a productive player for the Cowboys with his 117 career sacks and seven consecutive seasons with double-digit sack totals. But last season was a down year for Ware. He finished with a career-low six sacks and injuries were to blame, at least we think.

If you review the tapes of the 2013 season you see an explosive Ware in the Week 1 game against the New York Giants where he was credited with six quarterback hurries. In the following two weeks, Ware had four sacks and five quarterback pressures.

Then his body gave away. Elbow, quad, stinger and back problems affected his season.

Watch the tapes after Week 4 and you'll see Ware struggle to push back tackles. He wasn't strong enough to push the pocket and create problems.

Of course the Cowboys have to evaluate whether Ware's underwhelming final three months of the 2013 season were due to his skills declining or poor health. Ware is a talented player and if he's exposed to the open market he'd likely become a sought-after free agent.

The Cowboys can't afford a mistake here with Ware. If they let him go for whatever reason, they take the risk of him performing at a high level for another team.

Say you knew Ware would get 10 sacks for another team and that that team would reach the postseason: Do you still like the move?

The problem with the Cowboys regarding Ware is he's been such a great player for them that at some point, his time with the franchise will end.

It just shouldn't be now. Give it one more shot.
Calvin Watkins joined ESPNDallas.com in September 2009. He's covered the Cowboys since 2006 and also has covered colleges, boxing and high school sports.

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