Now that the coaching staff has been set in place, Denver Broncos general manager John Elway has his work cut out for him, as he tries to retool a Broncos roster that ended the season with a disappointing 9-7 record.
When looking at his roster, Elway has never been afraid to make a bold move in free agency, nor has he hesitated to part ways with players currently on the roster or set to become free agents. Either for salary cap purposes or a player’s performance, Elway doesn’t blink when it comes to making these difficult choices.
Of all the players on the Broncos roster set to hit the open market, one player in particular will stand out among the rest: DeMarcus Ware. Ware was brought in to Denver in Elway’s lauded 2014 offseason as a free agent from the Dallas Cowboys; where he established himself as a Hall of Fame worthy pass rusher.
Ware has been a marque part of the Broncos elite defense, while also providing leadership and passion inside the locker room. However, with an expiring contract that saw him make $10 million in 2016, the Denver Broncos will most likely be moving on from the 36-year-old.
There is always a possibility that the Broncos retain Ware on a 1-year, incentive-based contract; but considering that Elway negotiated a pay cut for Ware last offseason, this seems rather unlikely.
In 2016, Ware was plagued by nagging back injuries that sidelined him for six games. Over the past two seasons, Ware’s sack total has continued to decline, while he misses more time with various injuries. In 2016, over the span of ten games, Ware registered only four sacks. That makes it three seasons in a row that his sack total has dropped.
Playing behind Ware have been two young, promising talents in fellow free agent Shaq Barrett and 2015 first rounder Shane Ray. Financially, and from the players’ growth standpoint, Elway will probably allow Ray and Barrett to step into Ware’s role full time.
If Elway were to keep Ware, this would by no means be a “bad” move for Denver. During Denver’s 2015 Super Bowl run, Ware showed that he steps up when on the biggest stage.
Ware registered 3.5 sacks during the 2015 postseason, notably recovering the game-sealing fumble in Super Bowl 50. If Denver aspires to compete while their Super Bowl window is still open, Elway may retain Ware in hopes of recapturing his playoff magic.
Ware has made it very clear that he has no intention of retiring. He could very possibly return next year in orange and blue ,or he may head back to Dallas, where his career started. Regardless if it’s the Lone Star State, the Mile High City or elsewhere, someone will likely take a flyer. No matter where he plays next year, Broncos fans should be forever grateful for his services here on and off the field. And of course, for battering Tom Brady en route to Super Bowl 50.