He may be set to turn 35-years old, but pass rushers like DeMarcus Ware are always in demand; which teams may be interested in his services?
Defensive end/outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware was the 11th overall selection out of Troy back in 2005. He is the most notable player to ever come from that small Alabama university and spent his first nine seasons as the defensive heart and soul of the Dallas Cowboys. After leaving due to cap restraints, Ware headed to Denver where he believed he had the best chance of finally winning a Super Bowl.
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He was right as the Broncos won the big game in his second season with the team. He was rejoined that season by his former head coach in Dallas, Wade Phillips who became the defensive coordinator for Denver. Ware has struggled with injuries, but during Super Bowl 50 he reminded everyone how good he could be as he recorded five tackles and two sacks in the defensive domination of the Carolina Panthers.
Many of those critics Ware referred to in his Instagram post are saying the injuries have caught up to the nine-time Pro Bowler. While there is some truth to him being a lesser player than he was, Ware can still be an effective pass rusher even at 35 years old (which he will be when the season starts) and pass rushers are always in demand. Here is a look at five teams that could consider adding Ware to their roster in 2017.
Nov 1, 2015; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware (94) sacks Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) in the fourth quarter at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Broncos defeated the Packer 29-10. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
5. Green Bay Packers
The first thing a veteran player like DeMarcus Ware is going to want is to play for a contender. The Green Bay Packers fit that mold, which would entice Ware. For the Pack, it could make sense as well since they could potentially be losing outside linebacker Nick Perry and Julius Peppers in free agency this offseason.
Ware would offer up a cheaper alternative to Perry since they’re coming off vastly different 2016 seasons. Ware played in just ten games due to injury and recorded only four sacks. The veteran will be looking to win and to prove he can still play. He will want to get paid as every player does, but probably understands this won’t be a giant pay day for him.
Perry on the other hand is looking to break the bank. The fifth-year pro finally broke out for the Packers last season and recorded a career high 11 sacks. After the team declined his fifth-year option in his rookie contract, Perry played last year on a one-year deal and made himself a lot of money in the future based on what he did on the field.
While it’s still incredibly likely that Green Bay comes to terms with Perry, don’t be shocked if they try a different approach. Drafting a young pass rusher and playing him alongside a veteran like Ware, who would be a great mentor, makes a ton of sense.
Aug 12, 2015; Englewood, CO, USA; Denver Broncos defensive coordinator Wade Phillips during training camp activities at the UCHealth Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
4. Los Angeles Rams
Earlier it was mentioned Ware would want to play with a contender, which is true. The Los Angeles Rams would need a miracle for that to be true in 2017. It’s also true though that Ware wants to prove he can still be an effective player. One way to do that would be to join forces with the coach who he has had the most success with.
After moving on from head coach Jeff Fisher this offseason, L.A. hired the youngest head coach in the league Sean McVay. The former offensive coordinator made an incredibly wise hire by choosing Wade Phillips to be his defensive coordinator after the Denver Broncos foolishly decided against retaining his services when their head coach Gary Kubiak quit retired.
Should a contending team fail to offer Ware a contract he likes, one other option could be joining the Rams and playing in Los Angeles. Reuniting with Phillips again could be the best way for Ware to make one last run to prove his individual worth as a player. For Los Angeles it makes sense as well. Ware is a respected veteran who could help the rest of the defense get up to speed on Phillips defense given his familiarity with it.
Dec 18, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware (94) lines up in the second half against the New England Patriots at Sports Authority Field. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
3. New England Patriots
Back to contending teams. What better team to join up with for a run at another championship than the team that has won five, including the most recent. The Patriots won Super Bowl 51 in an amazing comeback. On defense they could be in the market for more pass rushers, and Ware is the kind of player they frequently target.
In 2016 they went for a former No. 2 overall pick, defensive end Chris Long. The veteran pass rusher was released by the Rams and headed to New England on a one-year deal in the hopes he could finally be part of a championship run, much like D-Ware did when he headed to Denver after being released by Dallas.
Long was able to get his ring this past season, but is now a free agent. As is fellow defensive end Jabaal Sheard and outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo. Instead of re-signing any of them, New England could look to get a guy who once dominated the league in edge rushing. Ware and his 138.5 career sacks would be a welcome addition to the Pats.
For anyone suggesting the champs would be better to just stick with Long, Ware has recorded 11.5 sacks the past two seasons in 22 games played including four last year in ten games. Long on the other hand recorded four in 16 games and just seven over his past two seasons which included 28 games played. Ware may not have been healthy in recent seasons, but he has been effective still, and is a better pass rusher than Long. That’s a gamble the Patriots would be willing to take.
Sep 22, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford (8) is sacked in the third quarter by Dallas Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Ware (94) at AT&T Stadium. This was Ware’s 115 career sack breaking the Cowboys franchise record. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
2. Dallas Cowboys
Who says you can’t go home? The Dallas Cowboys pass rush was bad, but not necessarily the worst during the 2016 regular season. They pressured quarterbacks and were middle of the pack in sacks, but they were incredibly inconsistent and lacked that one leader to make plays when they were most needed.
Nothing highlighted that more than their performance against the Green Bay Packers in the post season. Rodgers had all day long to dissect the secondary and even though they got some pressure via blitzes, they never got Rodgers off his spot when they needed it most.
Dallas should be open to such a reunion as well. While Ware isn’t the player he was while he was racking up a franchise record 117 sacks, he could be the guy who shows up on big passing plays. The Cowboys would be great for Ware as well since they are not only a contender, but they’re also really stout in rush defense. They can handle early downs with the players they have (as well as any ends they draft) while allowing Ware to become a third-down specialist.
Playing limited downs would keep the veteran fresh while allowing him to just come in and do what he does best, pressure quarterbacks. The mentor role would also be huge. Dallas is expected to go for an edge rusher early in the draft, and they also have some young talent that flashes potential like Demarcus Lawrence, Benson Mayowa and David Irving. These pass rushers are inconsistent, but should they watch how a pro like Ware prepares himself, they may pick up some great habits to combat that inconsistent play.
The most likely scenario for DeMarcus Ware is to simply stay put. He’s enjoyed his time with the Denver Broncos and is open to a return. He liked being in Denver so much that he even accepted a pay cut to remain with the team before the 2016 season, something he was unwilling to do when the cap-strapped Cowboys were forced to part ways with him. Mike Klis of KUSA had this to say of the Ware situation:
“The Broncos and right outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware reached a pay-cut agreement Saturday from $10 million in 2016 to $6.5 million. He did get a $2 million upfront signing bonus for his trouble. Ware will have a chance to earn the other $3.5 million back through incentives.”
Ware’s injuries kept him from earning those incentives back. Those injuries may keep Denver from wanting to keep Ware, but it may not be the only factor. With the entire coaching staff being turned over Denver may want to start turning the page on some of their veteran players as well.
With linebacker Von Miller leading the way as their premier pass rusher, Denver isn’t desperate for a veteran leader. They may also be ready to turn to linebacker Shane Ray as a full-time guy, thus making Ware a progress stopper. Ray had eight sacks in his second season. He had eight starts in 16 games and could benefit from being on the field more.