No reason to applaud Jerry for cutting Ware

In some circles, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is being applauded for cutting ties with one of the greatest pass-rushers in team history. The theory goes that Jones is behaving more like a cold-hearted general manager than a back-slapping owner.

I’ve decided to hold my applause since the reason Jerry had to make this move involved his mangling of the Cowboys’ salary cap. This organization leads the world when it comes to restructured contracts. But as he approached his 32nd birthday (July), Ware had become too expensive for the Cowboys. Some simple restructuring wasn’t going to do the trick. Jerry needed Ware to acknowledge his declining health and production by accepting a pay cut. Ware and his agent apparently weren’t in the mood for a pay cut, which is their prerogative. And that’s how a man who had at least 11 sacks in seven consecutive seasons ended up on the street.

I might be more supportive of this decision if the Cowboys had some talented young defensive linemen in the pipeline, but you know that’s not the case. Jones painted himself into this corner by playing a constant shell game with the salary cap. He never wanted to part ways with a player who is still capable of taking over games with his speed and power.

It bothers me that Jerry would fight like crazy to keep a malcontent like Jay Ratliff on the roster and then release a consummate professional such as Ware. Josh Brent has a better shot of staying on this team than Ware despite the fact that he’s sitting in jail.

I was covering the Cowboys beat for the Dallas Morning News when Ware was selected 11th overall in the 2005 draft. Bill Parcells favored taking Marcus Spears at that spot. And he also preferred Maryland’s Shawne Merriman to Ware. But he quickly got on board with the selection, famously telling ESPN that Ware reminded him a little bit of Lawrence Taylor.

Ware didn’t really blow anyone away in those first practices in Oxnard, Calif., but I recall him completely taking over a preseason game in Seattle. He would become the most dominant pass-rusher in the league over the next seven seasons. His most heroic moment came during the 2009 season when he played in New Orleans despite being carted off the field the previous week. His presence helped lead the Cowboys to a stunning win over a brilliant Saints team.

Yes, some of Ware’s sack totals seemed hollow at times because of when they happened. But for nearly a decade, he remained the most feared player on the Cowboys’ defense. It’s no coincidence the scouts and coaches who respected him the most worked in the NFC East. They were the ones who had to face him twice a season. That’s why my first thought after he was released was the Philadelphia Eagles. They have been trying to identify and draft an elite pass-rusher for years, so it makes sense they might try to sign Ware to play outside linebacker.

I think he could play at an elite level for two more seasons if he finds the right fit. Unfortunately for the Cowboys, the move to a 4-3 scheme seemed to diminish Ware’s impact. And perhaps it exposed him more to injury.

If he’s willing to become a pass-rushing specialist, Ware will have a better shot at staying on the field. Maybe the Cowboys will use this salary-cap relief to sign a couple of talented players.

But they won’t replace Ware. He was a transcendent player who helped provide what little identity the Cowboys’ defense has had since 2005. This was not a good day for the organization.

But it might end up being a great day for Ware. He could have the chance to join an organization that has a shot at winning the Super Bowl.