- Calvin Watkins, ESPN Staff Writer
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DeMarcus Ware is one of those elite players that had a down season.
He finished with a career-low six sacks while playing in 13 games. The three games Ware missed, for a quad strain, were the first missed games of his career.
According to Pro Football Focus, Ware was the eighth-ranked defensive end in a 4-3 scheme. What's interesting about Ware's 2013 season is Giants rush end Justin Tuck finished with 12 sacks and 44 hurries. Tuck was supposed to be on the decline and it seemed he had a revival.
You could blame Ware's health, back, stinger and the quad were the main issues, but you can't blame the type of blocks he saw. In his return from injury, Ware saw more one-on-one blocking against numerous teams. In a game against the New York Giants, Ware did see some double-teams from a tackle and tight end. On a few plays, in the second meeting against the Giants, a wide receiver helped out to block Ware.
One of Ware's strengths is his ability to power past tackles with a strong jab to the upper body. There were too many times when Ware's upper body didn't help him in pushing past tackles.
This could be attributed to a lack of strength in his neck area because of the stinger problems he's endured. Of course, Ware, who turns 32 in July, could be getting old.
Ware is entering an interesting phase of his career now. The salary cap-tight Cowboys need space to make improvements to a roster that's been no better than 8-8 the past three seasons. If the Cowboys release Ware it creates $7.4 million in cap space for 2014. Ware has a projected base salary of $12.2 million with a cap number of $16 million. Ware said he's willing to move his salary around to create cap space, but not take any pay cuts. Ware is right to not take a pay cut in a cut throat business like the NFL.
However, the Cowboys need to figure out if Ware is nearing the end of his career or if 2013 was an aberration.
This isn't an easy decision to make for one of the premiere pass-rushers in the NFL. It's difficult to ask Ware to become a pass-rush specialist at the amount of money he's projected to make. Then again, if the Cowboys say, goodbye to Ware, only to watch him have a terrific 2014 season, the decision will haunt them.
Ware should be given another chance to prove himself, because Jerry Jones, the general manager, has done it in the past with players such as Kyle Kosier, Marc Colombo, Andre Gurode, Roy Williams, Terrance Newman and Felix Jones. It's OK to give players another opportunity to prove themselves one last time, Kosier, Colombo and Gurode proved Jones correct in giving them a last shot to play well. Both Roy Williamses, the receiver and safety, Newman and Jones should have been released before getting another opportunity.
Ware, if healthy, should bounce back, if he doesn't the decision to keep him will hurt.