The Dallas Cowboys have told defensive end DeMarcus Ware that they want him to remain with the team in 2014, according to a source, but now the team and player have to come up with a way to bridge the gap over how much the seven-time Pro Bowler makes.
Ware is scheduled to make $27 million over the next two years. He is set to receive a $12.25 million base salary and a $500,000 workout bonus in 2014, and $13.75 million in base salary with another $500,000 workout bonus in 2015.
The Cowboys have simply restructured his contract in past years to create salary-cap space, but they are not as willing to chew up salary-cap space in the future on Ware, who turns 32 in July and had six sacks in 2013. The question then becomes how much of a pay cut Ware would be willing to accept and how the team could structure a new deal in a way for Ware to possibly make up the difference in money through incentives.
The Cowboys, needing about $1 million to get under the cap, do not have to touch Ware's contract to be cap compliant by March 11. Instead, they could release a player or two, or restructure other contracts. In order to be spenders when free agency begins, however, they would need to gain some salary-cap space.
Ware told ESPN.com last month that he would stay out of the contract talks.
"My mentality is that I'm going to do what I need to do to try to help the team out the best I can where they're going to win and I want to win," Ware said. "We need guys here to be on the team for next season to help me out, to help us out, so sometimes you can't think about a whole bunch of money and then not have anybody there. You need somebody there by your side, a defensive tackle, a defensive end, a wide receiver. You need to figure it out because the time is now. We need to win. That's what I get out of playing. I play hurt, bruised up. Some guys don't play, but I still get out there and play because I don't care about anything else."
Ware, who is the franchise's all-time leader in sacks, had made the Pro Bowl from 2006 to 2012 but missed the first three games of his career in 2013 because of a quadriceps strain. He is recovering from right elbow surgery to repair a nerve issue that had troubled him the past two seasons.
At the NFL scouting combine, owner and general manager Jerry Jones said he could not guarantee Ware would be a Cowboy in 2014, but he also said he has a difficult time wondering what the Dallas defense would look like without Ware.
Coach Jason Garrett said at the combine that he believed Ware could continue as an elite pass-rusher.
Now the Cowboys have to determine just how much they want Ware.