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Wednesday, February 19, 2014
Cowboys have call to make on Ware

By Todd Archer
ESPN.com

INDIANAPOLIS -- If DeMarcus Ware remains with the Dallas Cowboys in 2014, it will not be with a salary-cap figure just north of $16 million.

Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones acknowledged the team has a decision to make on Ware, the franchise's all-time leader in sacks who is recovering from right elbow surgery performed Tuesday.

DeMarcus Ware
The Cowboys' DeMarcus Ware has a salary-cap figure just north of $16 million in 2014, a figure that makes him a possible salary cap casualty.

"There's a bunch of options," Jones said Wednesday in a break between meetings with the competition committee at the NFL combine. "You can restructure. You can take a pay cut. You can obviously not have the player. And it's not just DeMarcus. There's several players we have to look at."

Wide receiver Miles Austin, who caught 24 passes for 244 yards in 2013, also falls into that category. The Cowboys would save $5.5 million against the 2014 cap if they designated Austin a post-June 1 cut.

The 2014 salary cap has not been set but the Cowboys are projected to be over by $20 million to $25 million.

"We've got several clear paths to being under [the cap]," Jones said. "I'm not worried about being under the cap."

The Cowboys will restructure the contracts of quarterback Tony Romo, who is set to count $21.773 million against the cap, and linebacker Sean Lee, who will carry a $7.6 million cap figure into 2014, and that would get them about $13 million in cap space.

They can also look to restructure the contracts of other players or cut a number of players.

"We'll be under and we'll be able to do some efficient things in free agency," Jones said.

Efficient does not translate into high-priced additions to help the Cowboys get out of the 8-8 rut they have had in each of the last three years. It likely means the Cowboys will not be able to keep free-agent defensive tackle Jason Hatcher, who led the team with 11 sacks last year and was added to the Pro Bowl.

As for Ware, the Cowboys have restructured his contract several times over the years in order to help with salary-cap space, but that has pushed his cap number too high. The Cowboys can save $7.4 million against the cap if they were to release Ware. They can create nearly as much as $9 million in cap room if they were to restructure his contract, but would push more money out in the future.

The Cowboys could also ask Ware to take a pay cut. Ware has a $12.25 million base salary in 2014.

"I don't know what's going to happen," Ware told ESPN.com last week. "I'm going to let the guys run the numbers and handle that. My mentality is that I'm going to do what I need to do to try to help the team out the best I can where they're going to win and I want to win.

"We need guys here to be on the team for next season to help me out, to help us out, so sometimes you can't think about a whole bunch of money and then not have anybody there. You need somebody there by your side, a defensive tackle, a defensive end, a wide receiver. You need to figure it out because the time is now. We need to win. That's what I get out of playing. I play hurt, bruised up. Some guys don't play, but I still get out there and play because I don't care about anything else."

Ware was held to a career-low six sacks in 2013 and missed the first three games of his career with a quadriceps strain. He was also bothered by stingers and the elbow injury. He turns 32 in July.

Jones said the Cowboys are evaluating whether 2013 was a down year or the end of the run for Ware, a seven-time Pro Bowler.

"It's not easy," Jones said. "That's why you sometimes don't always make the right decision." Jones said the team does not have any meetings planned at the combine with the agents for Ware and Austin and others.

"Everybody is looked at in terms of resources that are being allocated to that player," Jones said.