“I wasn’t completely blindsided,” Austin said. “I understood what the outcomes or scenarios could be. They let me know personally and it was handled really classy and I wouldn’t expect anything other than straight class. Now I’ve got a group of other scenarios that can come up and I’m looking forward to the next possible opportunity wherever it may be.”
Austin caught only 24 passes for 244 yards in 11 games last season and did not score a touchdown in 2013. Recurring hamstring injuries played a part in keeping Austin from matching the success he had in 2009-10.
In 2009, he took over for an injured Roy Williams and set a franchise record with 250 yards on 10 catches and two touchdowns in an overtime win at Kansas City. He finished the season with 81 catches for 1,320 yards and 11 touchdowns, good enough to make the Pro Bowl. A year later he signed a six-year, $54 million extension and caught 69 passes for 1,041 yards and seven touchdowns.
He missed six games in 2011 with hamstring injuries and was slowed to a degree by his hamstrings in 2012 but caught 66 passes for 943 yards and six touchdowns.
After catching 10 passes in the season opener, Austin caught only 14 passes the rest of the season.
“Anyone who knows me, any of the guys on the team, any of my friends, family, they know how much I care about how well I do for the team,” Austin said. “I want to be a complement to the team and be a contributor, regardless of what it is. Obviously it’s frustrating to deal with injuries. I wish it wasn’t the case.”
Austin was married two weeks ago. On Wednesday, his future took another twist.
“It’s been an eventful past couple of weeks,” Austin said.
IRVING, Texas -- A piece of advice: Do not drive yourself crazy now that we know DeMarcus Ware will play for the Denver Broncos next season. Don't second-guess the decision the Dallas Cowboys made Tuesday to release Ware. It was the correct move.
He wasn't worth the money on an average team like the Cowboys that have a multitude of roster holes to fill. On the Broncos, Ware makes perfect sense. And that's why they gave the 31-year-old defensive end a three-year, $30 million deal.
Ware will earn $13 million in signing bonus and salary this season, and his $7 million salary for next season is guaranteed. Odds are he won't see the third season.
Right now, what you need to understand is that Ware will have a monster season next year with Denver. Guaranteed. My advice: Spend the next few months preparing yourself to deal with it.
Hey, we've done it before. Remember Steve Nash won consecutive most valuable player awards the first two seasons after Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban let the free agent point guard leave because he figured Nash's body was going to break down sooner rather than later.
And who can forget catcher Pudge Rodriguez winning a World Series with Florida a year after spending the first 12 years of his career with the Texas Rangers? Texas let Rodriguez leave because they thought he was done, the same way the Cowboys let Ware go because they weren't sure how much he had left to give.
"To Mr. Jones for gracefully letting me go out in the market and let me choose where I can finish my career at, I want to thank him for that,” Ware said. “And I want to wish my former teammates, coaches and just the Cowboys good luck in their season.”
Ware was cut by the Cowboys on Tuesday and found a home in Denver less than 12 hours later to the tune of a three-year deal, with $20 million guaranteed.
The Cowboys were set to pay Ware $12.75 million. He will make $13 million from the Broncos this year.
In nine seasons, Ware became the Cowboys' all-time leader in sacks with 117. He was named to the Pro Bowl seven times. Last year, however, he missed the first three games of his career and was held to six sacks.
The Cowboys were determined to move on from Ware, who turns 32 in July. The Broncos were happy to embrace him.
"We know how much more football he has in him," Broncos executive John Elway said.
New defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli wants to bring defensive linemen at quarterbacks in waves the way the Seattle Seahawks did it in 2013. It is a plan that makes sense and it’s how the Cowboys operated in their Super Bowl days of the 1990s.
So far the Cowboys' answer to losing Ware has been Jeremy Mincey and Terrell McClain, who have agreed to deals, according to sources. They aren’t done shopping by any stretch, but how much better are these guys compared to the likes of Jarius Wynn, Everette Brown, Drake Nevis, Corvey Irvin and the rest of the linemen the Cowboys trotted out there in 2013?
Mincey has 20 sacks in his career. McClain has one.
The Cowboys are hoping these guys turn into George Selvie, whose seven sacks last year were more than Ware. Selvie was a training-camp gift. He developed into a solid player, but can the Cowboys bank on another seven-sack season (or more) from Selvie in 2014?
For all of you asking about Jared Allen or Julius Peppers, look at who the Cowboys have targeted so far. If the price tags on Allen and Peppers come way down, then maybe the Cowboys will have a chance to make a deal. If they don’t, then forget it.
For years people have criticized Jerry Jones’ spending. Now when he shows some restraint, people wonder what the heck he is doing.
Mincey and McClain won’t make anybody forget Ware, or maybe even Anthony Spencer, but they won’t be the end of the Cowboys’ work to rebuild the defensive line either.
Mincey, a 2006 sixth-round draft pick by New England, has played the bulk of his career with Jacksonville. He started the 2013 season with the Jags, recording nine tackles and two sacks, before he was cut in December.
Denver signed him after that and he played in two games.
Earlier Wednesday, the Cowboys reached agreement on a three-year deal with defensive tackle Terrell McClain.
Coming into the day, the Cowboys had $8.5 million in salary-cap space devoted to free agents and draft picks. The team picks up an additional $5.5 million after June 1 thanks to the release of wide receiver Miles Austin.
The Cowboys envision McClain as the pass-rusher inside, the three-technique position Jason Hatcher played last year and to create competition along the defensive line that is lacking depth.
McClain arrived at the Cowboys' Valley Ranch complex Wednesday.
When McClain was at South Florida, he worked out for then-Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli. Now, Marinelli is the Cowboys' defensive coordinator and he's trying to find talent to fit his 4-3 scheme.
In the past 24 hours, the Cowboys lost three players along the defensive line. End Anthony Spencer hit the free-agent market, end DeMarcus Ware was released and reached an agreement with the Denver Broncos on Wednesday, and Hatcher also morphed into the marketplace and was visiting Seattle late Tuesday night.
There are only two projected starters left for the defensive line in end George Selvie and defensive tackle Nick Hayden.
The Broncos announced the signing Wednesday, but they did not confirm the financial terms.
The deal, according to the source, will pay Ware $13 million in 2014 -- $250,000 more than the Pro Bowl pass-rusher was scheduled to make from the Dallas Cowboys, who released him Tuesday. His $7 million salary in 2015 also will be guaranteed, according to the source.
The deal is contingent upon the 31-year-old Ware passing a physical exam Wednesday.
Three weeks ago, Ware had two bone chips removed from his elbow. His recovery is said to be going well. Once he was released by Dallas, at least a dozen teams expressed interest.
"[Ware and Talib] are two great players," Ward told ESPN.com on Wednesday. "I know what they do on the field. I know those are two players I admire. We'll work well together."
The reigning AFC champion Broncos agreed with Talib on a six-year, $57 million deal, sources told ESPN. Denver added Ward earlier Tuesday.
"We all have those leadership qualities and we can all help this team, this defense progress in that area," Ward said. "Just experience, leadership, physical qualities -- [I] think we've seen with Seattle last year that definitely defense wins championships."
The Cowboys released Ware, their all-time leader in sacks, to save $7.4 million against the salary cap. Jerry Jones, the Cowboys' owner and general manager, called the decision "extremely difficult" in a statement released Tuesday.
Ware recorded 117 sacks in nine seasons with the Cowboys, earning Pro Bowl honors every year from 2006 to 2012. But he had a career-low six sacks in 2013 and missed the first three games with a quadriceps strain. Ware, who turns 32 in July, was set to count $16.003 million against Dallas' cap with a $12.25 million base salary.
The Cowboys selected Ware in the first round of the 2005 draft with the 11th pick.
Ware had a streak of seven seasons with at least 11 sacks, recording 20 sacks in 2008 and 19.5 sacks in 2011. Only Hall of Famer Reggie White
The sidebar, as we used to call it back in the newspaper world, was Miles Austin.
What happened to Austin?
He was supposed to be this productive player with the high price tag whose average salary was $9 million per season. Hamstring injuries became more of his story than any Pro Bowl appearances.
The Cowboys valued Austin's skills but spent more time defending whether he even wanted to play than building him up.
Production is all that matters in the NFL and with Austin the 2010 season, his last Pro Bowl appearance, said it all. Austin's 1,041 yards were the third most among NFC East receivers. In 2012, Austin's 943 yards were also the third most in the division behind Bryant (1,382) and Victor Cruz (1,092).
Austin battled through hamstring injuries in 2012 and still came through with a solid season. Some wondered if Austin should remain with the Cowboys after that 2012 season.
But it all ended last season when Austin finished with just 244 receiving yards, that's the eighth-fewest yards among receivers in the NFC East. Austin battled hamstring problems and was shut down for three weeks so he could get healthy. He was just never the same explosive player last year.
He was productive, but you never got the feeling he was a dominant force like Bryant is. At times, Austin seemed to take defenses away from Bryant because of his own abilities to make plays in the open field. When defenses decided to place more defenders near Bryant last year, Austin was a ghost. Maybe his hamstring problems prevented him from making the plays that earned him two Pro Bowl appearances.
Austin was always this happy-go-lucky guy who was very smart and well liked in the locker room.
It was almost as if Austin was just happy to be here and was living the dream until somebody woke him up. Well the receiver from New Jersey should be wide awake now after the Cowboys sent him packing Tuesday.
Austin was never one to give you his thoughts totally on things. He would chat with you about the Yankees or Derek Jeter, yet when it came time for a real discussion about the Cowboys, he shielded himself by sticking with the company line.
The last moment of Austin's time with the Cowboys came on Kyle Orton's interception that sealed the victory for the Philadelphia Eagles in the 2013 regular-season finale.
Orton said he made a poor throw and took the blame.
I remember asking Austin to talk about what happened on the play and in a rare moment of insight, he said he should have done more to break up the pass. It was as if Austin didn't want his time with the Cowboys to end this way, second-guessing himself, about the final offensive play of the season.
Austin's production will be missed, but his inconsistency and hamstring issues won't.
Ayers, a five-year veteran with the Broncos, picked up a career-high 5.5 sacks last season along with 29 total tackles.
A former first-round pick out of Tennessee, Ayers started in 27 of a possible 72 games for the Broncos, including three last season. The Cowboys can upgrade the defensive line by signing Ayers to become the starting right defensive end, Ware's side, or getting another player in the NFL draft.
The Cowboys are not expected to be major players in free agency and will only make a move if it makes sense financially. At the start of free agency on Tuesday, the Cowboys had roughly $1.1 million in cap space. But after Ware was cut, the team has nearly $9 million in space Wednesday.
Once a team stocked with enough players to field a softball team in an over-30 league, the Cowboys are getting young.
With the releases of DeMarcus Ware and Miles Austin, the Cowboys have three starters over 30 years old in Tony Romo, who turns 34 next month, Jason Witten, who turns 32 in May and Doug Free, who turned 30 in January.
The only other thirty-somethings on the roster are backup quarterback Kyle Orton, who is 31, and long-snapper L.P. Ladouceur, who turns 33 on Thursday.
Not included on the list are free agents Anthony Spencer (30) and Jason Hatcher (31).
Ware turns 32 in July and Austin turns 30 in June.
The Cowboys have refused to use the word "rebuild" over the last three seasons but they have re-tooled their roster moving away from Leonard Davis, Kyle Kosier, Andre Gurode and Marc Colombo on the offensive line and Ware, Jay Ratliff, Marcus Spears and Kenyon Coleman on the defensive line.
They have made the decision to not restructure the contracts of Witten and Brandon Carr, who turns 28 in May, unless absolutely necessary so they do not push more money into the salary cap in future years.
For years people have called the NFL a young man's game. The Cowboys are moving to a younger man's team.
It's one thing to cut a player, like a DeMarcus Ware or a Miles Austin, when the salary-cap figures outweigh the on-field production.
It's another to replace that production on the field, especially with a player such as Ware.
Now Jones has to find multiple players for a defense that needs a lot of help with that money created by the release of Ware. There is a lot the Cowboys can do with $7.4 million of salary-cap space with just that one move. They can spend a lot on a little or a little on a lot.
It looks like they are more prepared to spend a little on a lot, which is the right way to go about their business.
They just need to make sure they get the guys they want and have true upgrades on that defensive line and not hoping they get better than George Selvie or Nick Hayden.
With Jason Hatcher visiting the Seattle Seahawks, Ware gone and Anthony Spencer in limbo, Selvie is the most accomplished defensive lineman on the roster. The Cowboys don't play a game that matters until September, but they can't have a repeat of what happened on the defensive line in 2013.
They overvalued their hand along the line, suffered an inordinate amount of injuries and were unable to cover themselves with the right pieces.
There is no doubt the Cowboys have a plan. Part 1 was letting go of Ware. Part 2 will be much more important.
That’s a good thing, because with the release of DeMarcus Ware on Tuesday, Lee will have to bear the weight of being the face of the Cowboys' defense.
From just about the day Ware arrived in 2005 as a first-round pick through 2012, he was the Cowboys' best player on offense or defense. He could do -- and probably will show people this year he still can do -- anything he wanted.
It is their right, and their salary-cap woes made the decision even easier.
But now Lee will be the face of the defense.
The Cowboys signed him to a six-year extension worth $42 million last summer that could accelerate to $51 million if he can stay healthy.
Those last five words shadow Lee the way Ware shadowed quarterbacks. He missed five games in 2013 with hamstring and neck injuries. He missed 10 games in 2012 with a serious toe injury. He missed one game in 2011 with a dislocated wrist but played the bulk of the season with it wrapped up like a club. He missed two games as a rookie in 2010.
Lee is everything that coach Jason Garrett wants in a player. He is tough, accountable, unselfish and talented. He knows the score. He knows he has to stay on the field for the Cowboys to have a chance to make the playoffs.
He can change games like Ware can, just in different ways. He has 11 interceptions in his career, two returned for touchdowns. He is a tackling machine. He is the brains of a defense. He can make sure other defenders are lined up in the correct spot. He can cover up their mistakes, too.
Ware could (can?) change games with his burst off the line of scrimmage and by pressuring the quarterback. He could (can?) do things athletically that men his size should not be able to do. He was (is?) the perfect combination of speed and power.
For nine seasons with the Cowboys, nobody did it better than Ware. He helped Greg Ellis, Anthony Spencer, Jay Ratliff and Jason Hatcher reach the Pro Bowl because he drew so much attention from offenses.
Tuesday marked the end of an era with the release of Ware and the beginning of another in a way with Lee.
Hatcher is coming off a career year with the Cowboys, earning his first Pro Bowl berth after a career-high 11-sack season.
The Cowboys have the necessary funds to make a play for Hatcher. However, his age -- Hatcher turns 32 in July -- could push them to a younger player at his position such as Henry Melton, who is 27.
The Cowboys will designate Austin a post-June 1 cut, which will free up $5.5 million against the cap in 2014. The Cowboys will not have access to the room until June 1 and likely will need it to sign their draft picks. Austin will count $5.236 million against the salary cap in 2015.
Austin will be the second former Pro Bowler the Cowboys have cut ties with in as many days, joining DeMarcus Ware, who was released Tuesday, saving $7.4 million against the cap.
Austin, who turns 30 in June, joined the Cowboys in 2006 as an undrafted free agent from Monmouth and returned a kickoff 93 yards for a touchdown in the wild-card loss to the Seattle Seahawks. He did not become a regular offensive player until 2009, when he burst on the scene with a franchise-record 250 yards on 10 catches against the Kansas City Chiefs. Austin scored two touchdowns, including the 60-yard game winner in overtime.
Austin finished the season with 81 catches for 1,320 yards and 11 touchdowns, and was named to the Pro Bowl.
The Cowboys signed Austin to a six-year, $54 million contract in 2010 that included $18 million in guaranteed money. He was named to the Pro Bowl again after finishing with 69 catches for 1,041 yards and seven touchdowns.
The NFL, however, penalized the Cowboys $10 million in salary-cap room over two seasons in part because of how the deal was structured in what was an uncapped year.
Last season for the Chicago Bears, Melton played in just three games before suffering his knee injury. In 2012, Melton was selected to the Pro Bowl while playing for then-defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli.
Now Marinelli is the Cowboys defensive coordinator, and if Melton's health checks out it could be a good fit.
Melton, a Dallas native, played college ball at Texas.