The Cowboys need to fix a lot of things this offseason – that is for certain.
One of them is the salary cap as the team is expected to have another year where money is tight (in terms of the cap, of course).
Another problem that needs to be fixed is the defense after the Cowboys had one of the worst seasons statistically in NFL history.
Here's what I know: The Cowboys will always find a way to manage the cap. I'm not as confident they'll find a way to fix this defense.
That being said, DeMarcus Ware doesn't need to be off this team in 2014. I know it sounds easy considering his contract is expected to hit the cap for $16 million this year. If he's released, the Cowboys can save about $7.5 million and maybe more if they did a June 1 cut, although that is likely to go to Miles Austin.
The Cowboys simply need to find another alternative.
Sure, they will ask him to take a pay cut. He'll come back and ask for a restructure.
But at this point in his contract, it's probably restructured out. When Ware signed his deal back in 2009, it was set to pay him an average of $11.1 million per year. So far, five years into the deal, Ware has never had a base salary higher than $7.8 million, and that occurred in 2010. The last three years, Ware's base salaries have been $685,000, $825,000 and $840,000 last year.
So what's that say? It says it's time to pay the piper. They've been pushing and pushing and pushing the contract to this point.
Now, his base salary is scheduled to be $12.2 million, and I'm with you, if the Cowboys can legitimately get Ware to agree to take a pay cut, then of course you have to go that route.
But I think it's all about how they approach it. Please, please, please don't tell me anything about a certain right tackle who did the same thing last year. You're embarrassing yourself if you want to compare Doug Free's situation to DeMarcus Ware's.
I've never seen a Free jersey at a game. I've never seen Free in a commercial. I've never seen Free on our website in an ad. I've never seen Free in the Pro Bowl. And we'll never see Doug Free in the Ring of Honor or Hall of Fame.
The fact is, you don't treat players the same way because they're not the same. They don't play the same and they don't get paid the same.
So just because the Cowboys held Free in limbo last offseason and then asked for a pay cut after he didn't have any leverage to go anywhere else, doesn't mean it's the right approach for all players, especially one that has been so great to this franchise.
And I understand that it's a "what-have-you-done-for-me-lately?" league. And more than that, it's about "*what are you going to do for me?" *
If Ware hadn't had the training camp he did this past August, I might be more skeptical about his future. We've seen two years in a row where he's struggled to stay healthy. It's a back, two elbows, a quad, and in my opinion, he'll probably deal with his neck/shoulder issue for the rest of his career. [embedded_ad]
So it's all of that, but hopefully for his sake he can find a way to manage that this offseason and put it behind him. That's something the Cowboys need to carefully investigate before they make any decision.
But just five months ago, I saw him dominate Tyron Smith. I saw a player who couldn't be blocked. He looked better than we've seen him in the past, and that's a pretty high standard. To me, I have a hard time thinking he's lost it in a matter of months.
And just imagine the feeling you'd have if Ware is cut, signs with Tampa Bay or somewhere and has 14.5 sacks and returns to Pro Bowl form.
I don't think he's done. I think he's got more in this tank and if you're the Cowboys, you've got to once again figure out a way to make it happen.
Ware has been the best football player this franchise has seen in the last 20 years or so. If you want to argue that point go ahead, but you can't argue his consistency.
Plus, the Cowboys will likely lose Jason Hatcher in free agency. Who knows if Anthony Spencer is going to make it back, and if he is re-signed, at what price? So either way, if you cut Ware, you better have a few people ready to step right in.
To me, you get Ware healthy again and you figure out the money and keep one of the best players this franchise has ever seen, happy and willing to play and turn it around.
The Cowboys have some of the best salary-cap people in the world. They can figure out how to keep that guy on the team in a way that's fair for everyone.