(right) could be wearing Denver's uniform in 2014. (Aaron Ontiveroz/Getty Images)
In the first day of free agency, the Denver Broncos spent $80 million in contract dollars and $40 million in guaranteed money on two defensive backs -- former New England Patriots and Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Aqib Talib, and ex-Cleveland Browns safety T.J. Ward. So, after releasing cornerback Champ Bailey and stopping talks with cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, it's clear that a defensive rebuild is underway in Denver.
According to multiple reports, that rebuild could continue with former Dallas Cowboys outside linebacker/end DeMarcus Ware, who will visit the Broncos on the first -- and perhaps last -- of his stops after the Cowboys released him on Tuesday. Last season, Denver lost end Elvis Dumervil to the Baltimore Ravens, and primary pass rusher Von Miller played in just nine games due to injuries and a league suspension. Denver got a surprisingly good season out of veteran pass-rusher Shaun Phillips, who was playing on a one-year deal, and it seems that executive vice president John Elway and head coach John Fox are ready to go back to that well. On Wednesday morning, ESPN's Adam Schefter tweeted that the Broncos were already the favorite to sign Ware, though several sources have said that more than 10 teams -- including at least six playoff teams -- would like to meet with Ware.
The Cowboys' all-time sack leader with 117, Ware was released because he and the Cowboys could not come to terms on a contract re-negotiation that would ease the burden of his enormous salary cap hit. Ware's sack numbers dropped to six in 2013 as he turned 31, and he had tallied at least 11 sacks in every season before that back to his second NFL campaign in 2006. But there may be more to that decline than age. In 2013, new defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin moved Ware from outside linebacker to defensive end, where he had to spend more snaps dealing head-on with offensive linemen. As former teammate Greg Ellis said, that can be a complicated proposition for a player who isn't used to it.
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“There is a concern for DeMarcus playing in a 4-3 defense as that defensive end [as opposed to] as an outside linebacker,” Ellis told KESN-FM last Tuesday, via the Dallas Morning News. “I had the opportunity to do both and when you’re playing outside linebacker in training camp, I couldn’t believe how my body felt, meaning it felt really good. When I played defensive end, it was like, ‘Man, do I really got to go out there and do that again?’ He went from the other end of spectrum. Playing that defensive end in the 4-3, he’s dealing with a 350-pound tackle every single play. When you play outside linebacker and they run the ball away from you, you’re getting a pursuit angle. You’re not even going to get touched.”
Were he to sign with the Broncos, Ware might play a role similar to Miller's, in which he's tasked to play a hybrid end/linebacker spot.