There shouldn’t be any shock or surprise after the Cowboys released DeMarcus Ware. Just sadness.
Yes, mustering sadness for Cowboys fans feels wrong, because in doing so you’re also shedding tears for fans of the Miami Heat and New York Yankees. But pour one out, because due to horrendous salary cap management, a defense that gave up the third most passing yards per game this past season (286.8) is now about to lose not only Ware up front, but also possibly Jason Hatcher too. All because cap space isn’t a luxury Jerry Jones’ fun bunch has, and they haven’t in quite some time.
The Cowboys entered today only a little over $1 million above the cap cut line of $133 million, and now, cutting Ware — a decision the defensive end asked them to make before the start of free agency so he could be exposed to the open market — creates $7.432 million in immediate room. That’s desperately needed space, and if we assume Miles Austin is eventually axed too another $5.5 million will be available to address a floundering defense which struggled to create pocket pressure, and gave up a league high 71 completions for 20 yards or more.
Look at those defensive numbers. In fact, do it a few times. The league high passing chunk yardage, the near league high per game yardage through the air, and let’s throw in the second highest passing touchdowns allowed (33). Then remember that defense is about to get worse.
Ware is old, and he’s fading and becoming more brittle. Those are the symptoms of football age, but consider that even while missing three games and being only physically present in a few others, he still had 6.5 sacks in 2013. He’s also only a year removed from 11.5 sacks.
The latter total is far behind Ware’s 19.5 in 2011, which shows his decline. But there will be plenty of teams out there right now with the market open that see Ware through a glass half filled with fluid, and look to what John Abraham did in 2013 as a situational pass rusher in Arizona. Abraham is much older in football years at 35, yet he still had a double-digit sack season while finishing with 11.5.
Abraham did that on a contract that’s paying him only $4.6 million over two years. Right now there’s a lengthy line forming to pay Ware on the cheap for a similar outcome. The injury risk will be there, but it will be minimized with the lack of dollars and years in a new deal.
Earlier on Tuesday, Vontae Davis received a guaranteed $20 million, and someone (the Raiders, of course) is actually willing to pay Roger Saffold $42.5 million. That’s not how free agency is won, and instead it’s how future cap casualties are created.
Free agency is won with those who are discounted or discarded, and can be plugged into a key role while optimized in a limited capacity. Free agency is won with the DeMarcus Wares who come with fewer shiny dollar signs.