Cowboys release all-time sack leader, DE DeMarcus Ware

Sources tell FOX Sports Southwest that the Cowboys have decided to release DE DeMarcus Ware.

DeMarcus Ware's 117 career sacks are the most in Cowboys' history and he was a perennial Pro Bowler.

Tim Heitman / USA TODAY Sports

IRVING, Texas -- "Pay cut or Be Cut.''

It seems an inglorious way for the Dallas Cowboys to part ways with the iconic DeMarcus Ware, but sources tell FOX Sports Southwest that Dallas took that exact position with the future Hall of Famer, but Ware refused to budge from his present $12.25 million base salary.

On Tuesday, the Cowboys released the team's all-time sack leader, ending the DeMarcus Ware era in Dallas.

Sources say both parties worked through the weekend in search of a compromise that would cut Ware's $16-million cap impact in half. But the only real progress from those talks came in the form of Ware's side leaking to the media the concept of an artificial deadline of 3 p.m. Tuesday --€“ the beginning of the NFL year.

The Cowboys operated under no such deadline, as Ware is under contract. But by releasing him, they will gain $7.4 million of cap space. When the transaction becomes official, Ware can hit the open market to sell himself, and Dallas can do the same in an effort to shop for his replacement or other defensive-line help.

Dallas entered Tuesday at $2 million under the cap. By increasing that to about $9.4 million, the team can intensify talks with its own free-agent defensive lineman Jason Hatcher and, to a lesser degree, Anthony Spencer. Others, like Chicago's Henry Melton, can also be in play.

Ware retains star quality but last season, as a leader of the NFL's poorest defense, he recorded just six sacks. His 117 career sacks are the most in franchise history, and he was a perennial Pro Bowler. But Ware turns 32 in July and has had surgeries in the last two offseasons.

He will, people at Valley Ranch hope, be a Cowboy again when it's time to induct him into the Ring of Honor.

But as of today, he is being told he'll be an ex-Cowboy, the result of a philosophy of wishing to avoid "paying age'' and the result of a negotiation that came down to "Pay Cut or Be Cut.''