ENGLEWOOD, Colo. —Premium tasks require premium investment. And while hitting on draft picks is crucial, a team that believes itself to be at the cusp of a championship cannot scrimp and save its way into a pass rush.
But the Broncos will get DeMarcus Ware at a significant discount compared to the amount that the Cowboys would have paid him had they retained his services. And they'll get a mature player who can still play every down, is just one year removed from a seven-season run of double-digit sack tallies.
Ware's sack production was down in 2013 – to a career-low six. Many attributed this to the Cowboys' transition to a 4–3 defense, which put him as a hand-in-the-dirt end after eight seasons as a stand-up outside linebacker.
But his struggles were actually more attributable to injuries than a scheme change. After the regular-season finale, he told the Dallas Morning News that he played through three injuries last year: a hyperextended right elbow, a torn right quadriceps muscle and a herniated disc.
The fact that Ware played through these infirmities for most of the season — he only missed three games — is testament to his pain tolerance. Those were the only three games he has missed in his career, which is evidence of his durability.
And when he did play in the 4–3 last year, he was effective, even if his raw totals didn't reflect this. ProFootballFocus.com credited him with 34 pressures and graded him as the No. 8 4–3 defensive end last year.
Further, the Broncos offer him something he's never experienced: the chance to be the "other" pass rusher. If Von Miller makes a successful recovery from a torn anterior cruciate ligament, Ware will have plenty of chances to work in one-on-ones, a situation in which he has flourished.
The threat of Ware and Miller can force teams to keep a tight end or a running back in to block, limiting a quarterback's targets. If an offense eschews max protection, Ware and Miller will. have one-on-ones, and quick timing passes will be a bit more difficult with T.J. Ward lurking.
Piece by piece, the defensive puzzle is coming together.