Let's get this out of the way first: DeMarcus Ware has great value to any franchise with the veteran leadership he brings to the table. I am a huge believer in the value of leadership. Von Miller has grown tons since we brought Ware to Denver and Miller credits a lot of his personal growth to the mentoring, brotherhood, and guidance Ware has provided.
Ware is a fantastic NFL player and was a big reason we won Super Bowl 50. This is without question. But today is a new day. 2016 looms and in the NFL "what have you done for me lately?" is a question that is always asked with a look toward the new horizon of another season.
Here's the skinny on the situation: DeMarcus isn't able to be on the field for the majority of the snaps for our defense. Many fans will say, "No problem...we have Barrett and Ray to rotate in."
That's true, but when you look at the numbers, things don't necessarily look great (H/T to our own Joe Mahoney for getting the snazzy table together and grabbing stats on this one):
For the season, here's the snap numbers overall:
- Von Miller - 76.2%
- Shaquil Barrett - 44.9%
- DeMarcus Ware - 36.8%
- Shane Ray - 31.1%
So from a strictly regular season snaps taken point of view, is it wise to spend 10M on a guy who isn't even on the field half the time? Sure there are games where Ware was clearly taking a lot of snaps, but there were also many games where Barrett tied if not exceeded how much time he was on the field.
This is the reason the Broncos are looking to save money. From their point of view, Ware has a great place to work where he gets to take a lower number of snaps to stay fresh (which helps him a great deal at his age) throughout the regular season. Then he can turn it up in the playoffs.
It is worth noting that even using this strategy, Ware still missed 5 games in 2015 with injury. That happens in the NFL to any player, but the front office will be weighing whether or not his risk level is higher moving forward or not.
What about production though?
Here's where there's some muddy waters. DeMarcus Ware led the team in how often he produced sacks. If that's what you care a great deal about, there's a compelling reason that you flat out pay the man.
On the other hand, our most productive tackler from the OLB position was hands-down Shaquil Barrett. He also made impacts on causing fumbles and defending passes.
All of these stats as always can be very subjective. How many of the snaps that Ray and Barrett took were 3rd and long? How much better would the two young guys get if they got more snaps? There are lots of great questions we can delve into in the comments.
Also keep in mind this is regular season only. Ware was a stud in our Super Bowl championship run. Can the young guys have the same impact?
My personal opinion is that the restructure is the right way to go, even if that means we have to cut ties and move on. It won't be popular with fans, but when you have really talented young depth at a position like this, you have to make good decisions that helps the team with how you spend the team's money. Both Barrett and Ray absolutely look like they can handle themselves. Neither of them were just pre-season feel good stories. They both impacted the games all year long and even in the playoffs. There are some head-scratching moves our front office has made this off-season, but the idea of restructuring Ware is not one of them in my books.