IRVING, Texas – Recently released Cowboys sack leader DeMarcus Ware agreed to a three-year contract with the Denver Broncos on Wednesday.
The Cowboys released Ware, who was set to make $12.25 million and count $16 million against the salary cap, on Tuesday afternoon following a discussion about renegotiating his existing contract. Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones expressed hope the seven-time Pro Bowler would consider a return to the team if he couldn’t find a better deal as a free agent.
“DeMarcus and I agreed on an understanding that would allow him to explore the options he will have for the 2014 season and beyond,” Jones said in a statement Tuesday. “We were also in very strong agreement that playing for the Dallas Cowboys would be one of the options we would both be exploring.”
Those hopes were dashed decisively less than 24 hours later, as the Broncos’ reported deal with Ware is for $30 million over three years, with a $20 million guarantee. The contract will reportedly pay Ware $13 million in his first season – more than he was slated to make with the Cowboys.
Ware becomes just the latest big-name free agent to sign up with Denver, last year’s league runner-up, in the past two days. The Broncos signed Pro Bowl safety T.J. Ward on Tuesday afternoon, and they added Pro Bowl cornerback Aqib Talib on Tuesday night.
The Cowboys saved $7.4 million in cap space with the decision to release Ware, who finished 2013 with the lowest sack total of his career. Ware jumped out to a fast start with four sacks and an interception in the Cowboys’ first three games last year, before he was hampered by injuries – many of the same ones that plagued him in 2012.
Ware played through stinger issues and a nagging elbow issue, but a quadriceps injury suffered Oct. 13 against the Redskins forced him to miss the first three games of his career.
Among Ware’s many accomplishments and accolades with the Cowboys are a 20-sack season in 2008, when he was named the NFC Defensive Player of the Year, and a 19.5-sack year just three seasons ago in 2011. Ware and Mark Gastineau are the only two players in league history with two seasons of 19 or more sacks.
One silver lining for Cowboys fans is that Ware appears likely to finish his NFL career outside the division, and outside NFC altogether. Dallas just played Denver during the 2013 season, which means the Broncos won’t show up on the schedule until 2017 at the earliest – barring a Super Bowl matchup. There was some speculation that Philadelphia would attempt to sign the seven-time All-Pro within the NFC East.