One of the best players to put on a Dallas Cowboys uniform will wear a different one in 2014, as DeMarcus Ware has been released by the organization.
That’s a tough lede to type out. It’s huge news, and a move that will send shockwaves through the fanbase and the Cowboys organization.
And to me, it’s a move that doesn’t make a lot of sense.
Yes, Jerry saves himself from a huge cap hit and frees up $7.4 million in cap space. Financially, that sounds like a wise move. But my problem with cutting Ware is that, while it creates that heralded cap space, it is a huge sacrifice in talent.
You have to pay for a talent like DeMarcus Ware.
Yes, he’s 31 years old. As Jean-Jacques Taylor wrote for ESPN, NFL owners shouldn’t pay age.
And moving on from deteriorating veterans is part of the business.
But DeMarcus Ware is not only one of the best players to ever don the Cowboy Blue and Silver, he is one of the best pass rushers in NFL history. According to ESPN Stats & Info, only Reggie White (137.0) posted more sacks in his first nine NFL seasons than Ware, who has 117.0 in nine seasons with the Cowboys.
He’s a seven-time Pro Bowler, and he’s probably been the most consistent Cowboy in the nine years since Dallas drafted him.
And the three games he missed due to injury last season were the first three games he has missed in his career.
Is that enough evidence to suggest that Ware is a deteriorating veteran? I think not. Who is Jerry Jones to claim he can see into the future and predict that the rest of Ware’s career will be like last season? For that matter, who is anyone in the Cowboys front office to claim that kind of credibility?
The Cowboys organization is a paradox of American sports. It has proven in recent years that talent does not lead to championships – or even a respectable amount of success. It has proven that having money does not translate to bringing in the right personnel. It’s an organization mired in mediocrity of epic proportions.
It’s an organization whose defense was historically bad – one that would be hard fought to get any worse… or so we thought.
So who is it that we’re supposed to trust that Ware’s effectiveness has come and gone? Who is the expert?
Another school of thought, in addition to the get-rid-of-the-aging-players mindset is that the ‘Boys can land two or three players through free agency or through the draft with the money they saved in letting Ware go. But again, who are we to trust to do that?
Sure, Ware himself was a great draft pick in 2005, and the likes of Sean Lee and Tyron Smith have been excellent draft day additions in recent years. But the Jerry Jones regime has been riddled with confusing draft choices. For every Tyron Smith, there is a Tyrone Crawford or a Caleb McSurdy.
Who is Caleb McSurdy, you may ask? That’s a good question, and I rest my case.
Even a blind squirrel finds a nut in the draft, but should an organization and a fanbase in desperate need be forced to trust said blind squirrel to replace DeMarcus Ware?
Then of course there’s the thought that the newfound salary cap freedom could go toward resigning Pro Bowl defensive tackle Jason Hatcher.
Well, Hatcher is 18 days older than Ware, and has only had one season with more than 4.5 sacks (2013). He’s a one-time Pro-Bowler, and only made it as a replacement for Ravens tackle Haloti Ngata. Ware has made seven Pro Bowls and has had less than 11 sacks in a season only twice (his rookie campaign, and last year).
I’m not knocking Hatcher. He had a career year in 2013 and whichever team signs him in free agency will be adding a huge piece to its defensive puzzle. But letting go of a 31-year-old Ware and the pedigree that he carries in favor of a 31-year-old Hatcher with just one top-tier season under his belt would be both impulsive and contradictory.
Who are we to trust that keeping Hatcher instead of Ware is the right move?
The more likely scenario, in my opinion, is that the Cowboys end up with neither of the two aforementioned defensive stalwarts. So then it’s up to Jerry and the front office to make the best use of the cap space.
I believe it was Plautus who once said “you must spend money to make money.” And while those words may or may not ring true in modern entrepreneurship, it is a reasonable thought process for success in sports.
It’s going to cost money to gain back the talent lost in Ware and Hatcher. That is one of the few certainties in football.
The money saved is great, but in my opinion it’s overrated – because the Cowboys will have to spend it elsewhere in order to make progress. Currently, an abysmal defense from 2013 is even worse without no. 94 in 2014.
Releasing Ware was an unexpected move. And Jerry is responsible for making it look like a good one. To do that, he’ll need even more of the unexpected – a series of smart managerial moves.
Either that, or we can hope there’s a series of nuts in the blind squirrel’s path.