Cowboys, Ware had to move on

IRVING, Texas -- Jerry Jones did what he needed to do Tuesday afternoon and released defensive end DeMarcus Ware, one of the best players to ever wear a Dallas Cowboys uniform.

Somebody send Jones a bottle of vintage port. He deserves it. Finally, he is behaving like a general manager instead of a fan.


Jones made the difficult decision after the 31-year-old Ware refused to have his salary slashed from $12.25 million.

Ware, a seven-time Pro Bowler with 117 career sacks, did what he had to do, too.

As good as he has been since the Cowboys made him the 11th player selected in the 2005 draft, Ware shouldn't have felt compelled to take a pay cut. Last season was the first time in his career that he recorded fewer than eight sacks. Just so you know, Jason Hatcher in nine seasons has had just one year with more than six sacks, and Anthony Spencer has done it once in eight seasons.

Spend some time on social media, and detect an undercurrent of anger directed at Ware because he declined a pay cut. Some folks believe it exhibits a lack of loyalty to the franchise that drafted him.

Stop it.

Salute the man. He has been exemplary on and off the field. There's no need for either side to be bitter. This is a business decision by both parties.

Actually, if the Cowboys had done a better job of drafting and developing players so they didn't get into a salary-cap pinch, then Ware wouldn't have had to decide where to end his career. It's the Cowboys, with their poor salary-cap management and yearly restructures, that pushed Ware's 2014 cap figure to $16 million.

All that's left is to wish Ware well and hope he earns a Super Bowl ring.

He's gone, so let's not not worry about what he does this fall and whether he gets 15 sacks or five. It's like worrying about whom your ex is dating. No good comes from it.

Ware is entering the second phase of his career, and if his next team is smart, it will make him a pass-rush specialist and limit him to about 45 plays per game. He can still start because that's important to a prideful man like Ware, but after the game's first series, he should spend much of the game playing only in passing situations.

Ware won't like that, but his body is beginning to betray him. He must listen to the warning sirens.

Ware missed the first three games of his career last season because of a strained quadriceps that is now healed. He also had offseason surgery to fix a troublesome elbow. Neither injury should worry his next employer. The "stingers," also known as pinched nerves, that he seems to get more frequently should be a concern, however. Those things don't heal and get better. They simply happen more frequently, as the training staff in Dallas can attest. If Ware acknowledges that and accepts a pass-rushing role, he can be a difference-making player for another few seasons.

And while Ware begins the next chapter of his career, so does Jones.

Maybe Jones is finally learning what it takes to do the job. Perhaps vice president Stephen Jones is influencing him more. Or coach Jason Garrett is chiming in.

Frankly, it doesn't matter.

Jones released aging, unproductive defensive tackle Jay Ratliff last season, as he should have. Ware is gone and receiver Miles Austin will soon join him. Jones should set a modest price for Hatcher, who had a career-high 11 sacks last season and made the Pro Bowl. If he accepts it, fine. If not, then let him leave. The same goes for Spencer.

The worst thing a GM can do in today's NFL is pay age. It just doesn't work because the game is too physical, too violent.

As is the case with Ware, the name on the back of the jersey remains the same, but the talent fades. This is a young man's game, and the GM must be ruthlessly pragmatic.

Emmitt Smith was released. Troy Aikman and Larry Allen were, too. Ware is gone. And one day, Jason Witten and Tony Romo will have to decide whether to take pay cuts or find other clubs.

Such is life in the NFL.

Jones must continue to purge the roster of age. The only way to do that is to draft well, something the Cowboys really haven't done consistently for years, and use free agency to plug small holes.

The only guys who receive huge contracts should be draft picks who have excelled for multiple seasons.

Do that, and the Cowboys might finally escape the abyss of mediocrity. And Jones might actually earn respect as a GM.