The Denver Broncos have signed free-agent DeMarcus Ware to a three-year contract. The deal is worth a reported $30 million over 3 years. Ware was waived Tuesday by the Dallas Cowboys, where he played nine seasons, in a salary-cap move.
Ware averaged 15.5 sacks per year for the Cowboys but had only 6 last year in an injury-plagued season that saw him miss three games. He ranks 17th on the NFL’s all-time sack list with 119 in his career. The Cowboys reportedly saved $7.4 million in cap money for next season. Ware’s base salary was $12.25 million, and Dallas let him go when the two sides could not agree on a restructuring of his contract for the coming season.
The move to sign DeMarcus Ware is just another free-agent pickup by the Broncos as they attempt to shore up their defense and give quarterback Peyton Manning a chance to win a Super Bowl before his window of opportunity closes. Since the beginning of the free-agent signing period on Tuesday, Denver has also acquired safety T.J. Ward from the Cleveland Browns and Aqib Talib, a lockdown cornerback who played last season with the New England Patriots.
The Broncos have certainly opened up their pocketbooks. Talib’s contract is for six years at $57 million, with $26 million guaranteed. If those figures are accurate, the 28-year old Talib would be the second-highest paid cornerback in the league behind free-agent Darrelle Revis, who was waived by Tampa Bay on Wednesday. From Denver’s side of it, though, they money they are giving him is close to what they were paying now-departed cornerback Champ Bailey. Talib was drafted in the first round in 2008 by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and was traded to New England in 2012. He played in 13 games for the Patriots last year with four interceptions and 41 tackles.
T.J. Ward was given a four-year deal worth $23 million but most of that, $16 million, is guaranteed. He played college football for Oregon, and was a second round draft pick for the Browns in 2010. He played in all 16 games for Cleveland last year, recording 112 tackles and two interceptions. Coming off of a Pro-Bowl season, Broncos’ General Manager John Elway looks for Ward to bring some “toughness” to Denver’s secondary and help make the defense more physical after an embarrassing 43-8 loss to the Seahawks in the Super Bowl.
If the Denver Broncos aim for next season is to get more physical on defense, the signing of Demarcus Ware, Talib and Ward are indications they are serious about it. The Broncos lacked a consistent pass rush with the loss of Elvis Dumervil in the infamous “fax mishap” and the drug suspension and injuries to Vaughn Miller. The return of a healthy Miller and the addition of Ware give the Broncos a pair of relentless pass-rushers in their quest for the Super Bowl in 2015. There could be more signings ahead too, as the free-agent frenzy continues in the NFL. Reports have the Broncos eyeing Vikings All-Pro Jared Allen to play next to Ware at defensive tackle.
By Chuck Podhaisky