There's been quite a bit of argument about Demarcus Ware. there's back and forth about keeping him: How do you cut a Hall of Fame player? How do you keep a 32 yr old speed rusher with injury concerns? The injury is a nerve, so it's not a sign of aging. Playing 4-3 was too physical and he missed games for the first time in his career.
And, of course, there's the trump card: $16 MILLION???
Everyone agrees there's no way Ware should play for that this year. Right?
Most agree that the team could use a healthy Demarcus Ware. Before the injury resurfaced last year Ware was a dominant performer. Pro Football Focus, for all their faults, generally is a good indicator of "player A had a good game" or "player B had a bad game". Ware had positive ratings in 5 of his first six games. He had positive ratings in only three of his last 7, and two of those were a) the week after the bye (rested) and b) the last game of the season (Ware has a history of fighting through injury when everything is on the line). His overall grade for the year was 12.6 (good for 8th place among 4-3 DEs) but he had 11.8 of that by week 6, meaning he really dominated at the start of the season. Had he stayed on that pace for the year, he would've been second only to Robert Quinn among 4-3 DEs on PFF's rankings.
Most also agree, however, that Ware's inability to sustain that pace is a sign of age and that he must take a pay cut to reflect his inability to stay on the field. I am generally in this camp myself, and every few days I go to overthecap.com and make a new contract for Demarcus Ware and smile as I realize what a good position the Cowboys are actually in. As Joey Ickes pointed out, the Cowboys have good leverage on Ware and can force him to cut his pay.
But recent revelations change the whole equation. The increase in cap this year and projection of $140m for 2015 dramatically change the landscape. Dallas has ~$133m in cap room this year. Adding the built in Romo, Lee, and Scandrick restructures to the deals they have already done gets them under the cap (assiming the news about Costa is true). Cutting Parnell and Durant gets them a couple of Million in space-- not enough to be players in free agency but enough to breathe. Signing Doug Free to a moderate extension (4 yrs, $3m bonus, ~$3m cap hit/ year) and doing the same for McKenzie Bernadeau (4 yrs, $2m bonus, ~$2m cap hit/ year) plus cutting Miles Austin outright gives us about $5.6m under 2014 cap and about $23m under the projected 2015 cap without touching Ware at all.
So why shouldn't we get even more money back from Ware? Dead money. No matter what we do, getting Ware to take a pay cut is going to mean pushing some of his current cap money out wards. This is a bad thing to do with a 32 yr old player, and we're already doing it with Romo. A Suggs-like restructure, as good as it is for the team, means Ware is a Cowboy till 2016, minimum, and his dead money extends as far as 2018. Why do it if we don't need to? Particularly, if Orton retires, we end up with $28m to spend next year-- plenty to do the restructures of Tyron and Dez which are so important to the future of the team.
But the kicker is this: should we draft a suitable replacement, or should Ware simply flame out this year, we are in an even stronger position with Ware next year as cutting him next offseason nets us over $12m in cap space, bumping us over $40m in spending available.
So just remember, when debating options, the wise words of Neil Peart: "if you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice." And sometimes, it might be the right one.