Updated: March 11, 2014, 5:47 PM ET
Todd Archer | ESPN.com
IRVING, Texas — DeMarcus Ware is no longer a Dallas Cowboy.
The Cowboys have released their all-time leader in sacks, saving $7.4 million against the salary cap but creating the need to find a pass-rusher for a defense that struggled to get to the quarterback in 2013.
Ware put up 117 sacks in nine seasons with the Cowboys, earning Pro Bowl honors every year from 2006 to 2012, but he had a career-low six sacks in 2013 and missed the first three games with a quadriceps strain. Ware, who turns 32 in July, was set to count $16.003 million against the cap with a $12.25 million base salary.
“A decision like this, involving a man who is a cornerstone player in the history of your franchise, is extremely difficult,” said Jerry Jones, the Cowboys’ owner and general manager.
The Cowboys selected Ware in the first round of the 2005 draft, No. 11 overall, and then-coach Bill Parcells immediately compared him to Lawrence Taylor. The Cowboys moved to a 3-4 defense and Ware became one of the most dominant pass-rushers in the NFL, earning All-Pro honors six times. He had a streak of seven seasons with at least 11 sacks. He had 20 sacks in 2008 and 19.5 sacks in 2011. Only Hall of Famer Reggie White (five) had more 15-sack seasons in a career than Ware (three).
But with his salary and recent injury history — he had shoulder surgery after the 2012 season and is recovering from elbow surgery this offseason — the Cowboys decided to part ways with one of the best defensive players in franchise history.
According to a source close to Ware, he will look to make a decision on his playing future quickly and will be selective on where he goes.
Covered NFL since 1997, Cowboys since 2003
Previously covered Bengals and Dolphins
Lives in Dallas area with his wife and two children