Cowboys Release DeMarcus Ware. So ... What Now?

George Selvie and Nick Hayden. Possibly the only DL starters left from last year. - Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Releasing DeMarcus Ware is a big step in a process that will inevitably lead to a totally revamped defensive line. But that process offers possibilities as well. We examine some options and wonder what the Cowboys will end up doing.

Releasing DeMarcus Ware was a cold, hard business decision. Nothing more, nothing less. Sure, it was a tough decision for the Cowboys, especially for Jerry Jones, who is loyal to a fault with his star players.

"A decision like this, involving a man who is a cornerstone player in the history of your franchise, is extremely difficult," owner/general manager Jerry Jones said in a statement.

And it is not a move to be trivialized or taken lightly. DeMarcus Ware is a Hall of Fame caliber player, and the decision to release him is nothing less than franchise-altering, and could usher in the end of an era on a scale that we last saw with the triplets.

In 2001, the Cowboys waived Troy Aikman a day before he was due a $70 million, 7-year contract extension. Michael Irvin had retired two years earlier after the 1999 season, and Emmitt Smith was released in 2003, as he was due a base salary of $7 million for that season, with a cap hit of $9.8 million.

Those three players defined the Cowboys in the 90s, just as this era's version of the triplets, Ware, Witten and Romo, defined the Cowboys in all their glory and futility for the last 10-odd years. Ware's release inevitably signals the beginning of the end for this incarnation of the Cowboys, as time may also be starting to run out for Witten and Romo as well.

But with change also comes opportunity.

The Cowboys now have cap space to plug holes with in free agency and the draft to upgrade talent with.

Reports are surfacing that they are looking hard at 27-year old defensive tackle Henry Melton, and their focus in the draft will inevitably focus on edge rushers. But they will also look to their own talent to step up. Guys like Tyrone Crawford, Ben Bass, George Selvie and perhaps Anthony Spencer will get a chance to show whether they can be "The Guy" and not just a guy.

At the same time, George Selvie could well end up being the most decorated returning defensive lineman in 2014, so the Cowboys would do well to look beyond just Henry Melton in free agency.

Some defensive line candidates that have been mentioned as options for the Cowboys:

  • DE Willie Young (28), Detroit
  • DE Alex Carrington (26), Buffalo
  • DE Justin Tuck (30), New York Giants
  • DE Robert Ayers (28), Denver
  • DT Clinton McDonald (27), Seattle signed by Tampa
  • DT Vance Walker (26), Oakland
  • DT Linval Joseph (25), New York Giants - signed by Minnesota
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