ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- It was, at least to this point in the Denver Broncos' offseason, the best called shot in free agency. But in the everywhere-man whirlwind that has been Von Miller's offseason, Miller broke down why the Broncos needed -- why he needed -- DeMarcus Ware, and why Ware would stay with the team.
“Most definitely, I definitely think he’s going to be back. We need him back," Miller said weeks ago. "You saw the job he did, not only with me, but with everybody in the locker room. That alone is worth every penny."
At the time, the issue was in doubt. Ware, who will turn 34 on July 31, had one of the team’s highest salary-cap figures. What happened in the weeks since just might be one of the most important moves the Broncos have made since free agency opened.
"That was very big," is how coach Gary Kubiak put it last week. " . . . I’ve said that, you’ve heard me say it a couple times, but it’s very big. We wanted him to be part of our team, and he wanted to be part of our team."
Ware, whose offseason has seen him crisscross the globe with social media check-ins from Africa and Australia, certainly did his part to make the deal happen. He agreed to a pay cut that took his salary-cap figure from $11.67 million to $8.17 million.
The team and Ware agreed he could have more of a specialist role as the Broncos try to regulate his snap count by using him most often in pass-rush situations. To that end, Ware can earn money back with incentives for eight ($1.25 million), nine ($2.5 million), 11 ($3 million) and 13 sacks ($3.5 million).
Throughout the offseason, executive vice president of football operations/general manager John Elway had consistently said he wanted to sit down with Ware and find a way to keep him in the locker room and in the defense.
“We know what DeMarcus brings to our team," Elway said. "A player like that, we all know what he does for your locker room, on the field, how he works, handles himself."
What Ware brings is the bottom line. His was one of the most important voices in the team’s Super Bowl run, an impassioned presence about the importance of doing the right things, being accountable and handling football business.
And Miller, whom the Broncos are trying to lock up in what could be the largest contract in franchise history, has credited Ware with being one of the most important confidantes in Miller’s rebound -- from his six-game suspension in 2013 for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy, and his torn ACL -- to Super Bowl MVP.
“DeMarcus, he was there for me," Miller said. “That’s my guy. That’s always going to be my guy. I want to look over from my locker and be able to walk over to him, right there, and hear him. That's my partner, and when you look at what he does in the pass rush with everything else he brings, those are the guys you have to have on your team."
Ware missed five games last season with a lower back injury; when all was said and done in the regular season, he played 403 of the defense’s snaps, or 36.6 percent. But when he returned to the lineup down the stretch, he was an impact player, one that affected opposing offenses.
The injury caused the Broncos to worry about his salary-cap figure -- 2016 will be the last year in the three-year deal he signed in 2014 -- but his play when he returned led the Broncos to hope a deal could be made. Ware came up big in the postseason and had two sacks in the Broncos’ 24-10 win over the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50.
Miller said his own postseason performance -- five sacks, an interception and two forced fumbles in three playoff games -- was affected by what Ware was doing as well.
“DeMarcus, healthy, I think is a tremendous complement to Von and had a lot to do with Von’s success," Kubiak said. “You all know his influence in our locker room and the job he does. That was a big part of it, but it still gets down to how well he plays."
“A guy like DeMarcus, what he’s done speaks for itself. You don’t have to say anything," Miller said. “He’s DeMarcus Ware . . . and our defense is better with him in it. Our team is better."