With news that Demarcus Ware could be a possible cap casualty for the Dallas Cowboys, one wonders what teams may be interested in the future Hall of Fame pass rusher if he does end up getting cut. A possible destination for the 31 year old could be the Houston Texans, who are in desperate need of pass-rushing in their front seven (outside J.J. Watt, of course). Here are some of the pros and cons of possibly bringing in Ware to strengthen the Texans defensive unit.
- Ware has experience as a 3-4 outside linebacker (OLB)
Ware obviously did not have his best season as a pro while playing under Monte Kiffin and his 4-3 defense. Granted, this was due to not only the defensive transition but also Ware’s nagging, year-long injuries. Ware was forced to play defensive end (DE) in Kiffin’s scheme, a position that Ware had not played since his years in college at Troy. Prior to Kiffin, Ware played as stand-up, 3-4 OLB. This allowed Ware the opportunity to wreck havoc on opposing defenses by relying on his speed rather than his brute strength. The Texans, who will be implementing a new 3-4 defense under Romeo Crennel (here is an excellent write up on Crennel’s 3-4 scheme and how it is different), could sign Ware and put him in his natural position. With the Texans’ defensive line essentially occupying the offensive line (the role of the defensive line in Crennel’s two-gap 3-4), Ware and the linebacking corps would be free to rush the quarterback at will. This leads to this next pro of signing Ware.
- By signing Ware to play OLB for the Texans, the Texans could then move Brooks Reed to inside linebacker (ILB) to play next to Brian Cushing
In my opinion, this would be the biggest pro in signing Ware. The OLBs for the Texans this past season, Whitney Mercilus and Brooks Reed, were not able to generate a consistent pass rush all season long and the result was a whopping ten sacks between them. Although they are both young players and have room for improvement, this may be exactly what the Texans will get from them from here on out, which is not good sign. Ware had a career low this past season with six sacks (yes, more than Reed) while being injured. By signing Ware, the Texans could then move Reed over to ILB, an idea that the Texans have toyed with before. This seems like a win-win for the Texans. Reed could shore up the ILB position next to Brian Cushing and let Ware terrorize opposing defenses as an OLB.
- Signing Ware would allow the Texans to pass on Jadeveon Clowney and draft their quarterback of the future
Clowney, who has been deemed a “freak” and a once in a generation talent, fits better in a traditional 4-3 defense as a weak-side DE than a DE or linebacker in a 3-4. Trying to play Clowney as a DE in a 3-4 defense would be a waste of his talent and playing him as a linebacker could be risky considering he has never done it. To me, there are too many risks in trusting Clowney to play as a DE in Crennel’s 3-4. Instead, the Texans could sign Ware and look for a replacement for Antonio Smith in the draft. One player that the Texans could target is Stephon Tuitt. Truitt may drop to the second round due his foot injury that did not allow him to participate in the NFL Combine. Tuitt is considered to be one of the top defensive end prospects, so this would be a huge steal to get him at the beginning of the second if he were to drop there. By not drafting Clowney, the Texans would then be able to have the peace of mind in selecting the quarterback that they think will bring them back to the playoffs. It really could be a huge two for one deal, as long as the chips fall favorably for the Texans.
- Ware is old and has an injury history
Demarcus Ware will be turning 32 this July. That is pretty long in the tooth in regards to NFL players. In comparison, Antonio Smith is currently 32 and his play has noticeably dipped the past two seasons. Could the same be said for Ware? Or was this past season a fluke? It is tough to say since he was not healthy all year long. Over the past seasons, Ware has had various injuries, including injuries to his neck, quadriceps, shoulder, and elbow. Ware is also having surgery done on his elbow this month. Although Ware has been extremely productive his entire career, has he reached his ceiling production wise? Would he even be able to stay healthy long enough to make a big impact on the team? These are tough questions that teams would have to ask if Ware is to get cut. For the Texans, would the risk be worth the reward?
- Ware will probably be asking for a lot of money, which does not bode well with the Texans’ salary cap
The biggest reason that Ware could be cut by the Cowboys is the large amount of money he is due in 2014 ($12.2 million). Ware also has a salary cap hit for $16 million, which is a huge price for a team that is currently projected to be $18 million over the NFL cap. Ware said that he would restructure his contract to stay with the Cowboys, but he would not be willing to take a pay cut. If cut, this may be a huge snag in the Texans possibly acquiring Ware. The Texans are currently projected to $8 million under the cap, although this number could dramatically increase if/once the Texans cut players that may be on the way out (Matt Schaub, Daniael Manning, Owen Daniels, Wade Smith, etc.). This number puts the Texans at 27th in the league in projected total cap space. If Ware would not be willing to take a pay-cut to stay with the Cowboys, what would motivate him to sign with the Texans who will not have a lot of money to offer him?
- Ware would be a quick-fix solution, not a foundational player that the Texans could build their defense around
Although Ware seemingly could a good fit in the Texans defense, he would be a plug and play guy that maybe has a few years left in the tank. This may be fine, considering that Bob McNair, owner of the Texans, thinks that the Texans are not rebuilding and instead just need a few pieces to get back on track. While this may or may not be the case, the Texans need to build their franchise on younger, explosive players that can be the face of the franchise for years to come. Some of the current foundational players include Andre Johnson, Arian Foster, J.J. Watt, and Brian Cushing. Andre seems to be aging well, but there will come a time in the near future when he hangs up his cleats (this is extremely depressing and a thought I do not like thinking about). Arian has had trouble staying healthy and staying out of trouble and the shelf-life for NFL running backs is extremely short, so the verdict is still out for him in regards to him being a foundational in the upcoming years. That leaves J.J. Watt and Brian Cushing. Watt is currently the face of the franchise and that will not change. Cushing is also a big face in Houston and the team and will continue to be as long as he stays healthy. Cushing and Watt are both young players that have already had a huge impact in their early careers. The Texans are in need of another young player to fill this role as franchise player, preferably at the quarterback position. Ware used to be one of the faces of the Cowboys’ franchise, but at this point in his career he would not be able to fill that role for another team.
In the end, if Ware ends up getting cut, I think it is very possible that the Texans take a look at him; however, the negatives outweigh the positives. Adding Ware is a really intriguing idea but I do not think that it would be the best option for the Texans moving forward.