Dallas Cowboys: Cutting a Legend

Dallas Cowboys

DeMarcus Ware

It’s the end of an era in Big D.

The Dallas Cowboys yesterday released 7-time Pro Bowl defensive end DeMarcus Ware, ending weeks of speculation as to how the team would handle his oversized salary.

Most people seemed to think Ware would be amenable to a pay cut, and perhaps he was, but obviously not one as large as the Cowboys had in mind. He has to like his shiny new $30 million contract, especially with $20 million guaranteed. He’s set to make $250,000 more than he would have with Dallas this year.

Ware is likely a future Hall of Famer, and almost certainly a Ring of Honor inductee. He’s one of the best to ever wear the star, and while he has no rings to show for it, he was the best part of this Dallas defense for the better part of a decade.

Why didn’t the ‘Boys bring him back?

For the last 25 years, this team has been stuck in JerryWorld, a land where Jerry Jones handed out huge contracts to nice guys and neglected the bottom half of the roster as it cost the team games.

As recently as last offseason, the status quo abounded in JerryWorld. Tony Romo, to the bemusement of all, was handed an MVP-caliber deal that will keep him in town through his age-39 season.

So when it came time to renegotiate with Ware, no one would have been surprised to see the Cowboys overpay. The whole reason they had to demand a pay cut was because they overpaid him with his last contract in 2009.

But even though there have been exceptions, there are signs that the culture in JerryWorld is beginning to change. Perhaps it’s the annual salary cap limbo, the bad deal after bad deal or—as I’d like to believe—Jones simply tiring of mediocrity.

Whatever the case, what seemed like a logical restructuring has turned into an outright cut of one of the best Cowboys of all time. Where can the team go from here?

It can start by re-signing either Anthony Spencer or Jason Hatcher to a short-term, one or two year deal. Hatcher is unlikely to agree to something like this, as he’s looking to cash in on a career-best year in which he recorded 11 sacks and 8 tackles for loss.

Spencer, at age 30, is also the younger player. He’s coming off knee surgery and will need to prove he’s fully healthy, but the Cowboys are more likely to target him if they sign only one of the two.

The other end may come from the draft or from free agency. The Cowboys are reportedly very interested in Chicago defensive tackle Henry Melton and Denver defensive end Robert Ayers, and signing one would likely mean a draft pick spent on the other position.

They’ve already made a couple of depth moves, inking former Texans DT Terrell McClain to a three-year deal while also signing DE Jeremy Mincey, who saw Super Bowl playing time with the Broncos.

The Dallas D-line is still thin, but the Cowboys have cleared up more than enough cap space now to address the issue. While cutting Ware, the Cowboys also dealt with Miles Austin yesterday, tagging him, as anticipated, as a post-June 1 cut.

How cruel. The team cut Austin on a day when they knew no one would care.

With those two moves, Jerry Jones has (at least temporarily) signaled that he’s willing to be the cold-blooded GM he must be in order to rebuild this team. He now has enough cash to bring in some help for defensive coordinator Ron Marinelli, improve the unit, and finally push the Cowboys over their mountainous playoff hump.

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