Cowboys open to signing older players

ORLANDO, Fla. -- The Cowboys let two starting defensive linemen go in free agency -- DeMarcus Ware and Jason Hatcher -- who will each be 32 years of age when the 2014 season starts in September.

There's a thought that the Cowboys moved on from extending the contracts of players in their 30s.

With Ware and Hatcher gone, the Cowboys signed three defensive linemen as replacements: Henry Melton (27), Terrell McClain (25) and Jeremy Mincey (30).

"I think we've been efficient, and, obviously, up front was a focus because of the unfortunate things we’ve had happen there last season," Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said. "We obviously decided to make some changes there so we brought in some people to fill some holes. But we'll continue to look at that and obviously keep an eye on it in the draft as well. But it allows us not to force the issue with the moves we’ve made."

Jones said the Cowboys are open to signing players in their 30s but it has to make good financial sense. During the free-agency period, the team expressed interest in 34-year old defensive end Julius Peppers before signing Melton and brought 32-year old defensive end Jared Allen to Valley Ranch for a visit.

Peppers signed a three-year deal with the Green Bay Packers and Allen has yet to sign a deal.

Jones said it's difficult to make decisions on good players who are in their 30s. Ware, for instance, was coming off a six-sack season, the first time he finished with fewer than 11 sacks since his rookie year. Ware also missed three games with a quad injury, the first of his career, and he was either limited or missed practice for an assortment of health issues.

The Cowboys had to look at whether Ware's decline was based on health or age. The team offered Ware a pay cut and he declined, so the team released him and 24 hours later he signed with Denver.

The Cowboys gave contract extensions to defensive tackle Jay Ratliff and left tackle Flozell Adams when the pair were in their 30s and each player was released before his contract expired.

"It's always hard. Historically we've obviously been that way but we’ve obviously been bit by it," Jones said. "So we took a long hard look at that and made some decisions not to go in that direction this time."

Asked about signing a player in his 30s again, Jones said, "We wouldn’t rule it out. I think each situation stands on its own."