Taylor Williams

Dollar Dilemma With Demarcus Ware

Created on Mar. 10, 2014 10:02 PM EST

If there’s one business decision that Dallas Cowboys fans should have a strong opinion on, it’s the DeMarcus Ware situation.

Costing $16 million against a cap already stretched tightrope-thin, the team’s best defensive player — perhaps its best overall positional talent — of the last decade, represents its most intriguing financial dilemma.

First things first: The Boys’ need Ware a lot more than he needs them.

But let’s consider the team’s perspective. It shouldn’t be an issue of whether Jerry Jones and Co. trust the gas left in Ware’s tank, which has run prodigiously for nine seasons, averaging 49 tackles and 13 sacks. Yes, pass rushers are among the first players to noticeably decline with age. Whether it’s the speed of their first step, their natural jump off the snap, or their strength in shaking blockers, general managers rarely struggle in justifying cuts of older pass rushers. But Ware will also be a very young 32. He’s got Rod Marinelli running his scheme. He’s got depth returning in Tyrone Crawford and the capacity for double-team relief emerging in George Selvie. The line’s interior will need re-building, but there’s ample talent in the draft. And regardless, it can’t suffer more injuries than it did in 2013.

The evidence of the past and the circumstances of the present do not favor cutting him. In terms of the team’s intent, the obvious conclusion is that Ware is worth keeping if a deal can be reached.

And therein lies the crux of the matter: money and long-term financial security. The 2014 cap is set at $133 million. How much of a pay cut does Ware need to take? And will he do it for the team he’s devoted his career to? A team devoid of big free-agency money, a top-notch general manager, and a winning record under its current head coach?

What a doozy.

If I’m D-Ware right now, my top priority is assessing to the last penny the current and future state of my finances. I’m running all the smaller numbers to come up with the big number — the final-offer amount of salary I can reasonably afford to forfeit. I’m having my agent make a lot of calls. And above all, I’m asking myself if, money aside, this team’s given me as much as I’ve given it?

The answer to that last question is an obvious “no,” and it’s never been more obvious right now. The records of the last three seasons, the forced faith in Jason Garrett, the ridiculous shuffling of coaching titles are all evidence of a team far from a Super Bowl. But that team has been Ware’s heart and soul for his entire career, and it’s still better with him on it.

In reducing Ware’s salary, Dallas should go as low as is fiscally possible. They should consider every restructuring option possible and offer every financially plausible incentive to keep him a Cowboy. Forget three missed games and offseason surgery; elite production held steady for nine straight years says he’s still a safe bet.

Not to cop out, but this one really is too tough to call this early. But keep him or cut him, Jones’ handling of D-Ware will be a sign of whether he’s approaching the 2014 offseason as the same old Jerry or as a general manager with a new M.O. 

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