DeMarcus Ware accepted a reduced contract Saturday. He was scheduled to make $10 million in 2016, the final year of his three-year, $30 million deal he signed in 2014.
He was due to make $7 million in salary next season with a $3 million roster bonus due Sunday. Under the restructuring, his base salary will be reduced to $6.5 million, but he will receive a $2 million bonus and will have an opportunity to earn his money back.
He, along with cornerback Aqib Talib and safety T.J. Ward, were signed to revamp the Broncos’ defense after their Super Bowl XLVIII loss to Seattle.
Reunited with defensive coordinator Wade Phillips last season, Ware finished second on the team in sacks (7.5) and quarterback hits (16), despite missing five games because of a back injury.
In the Broncos’ three postseason games, DeMarcus Ware recorded 3.5 sacks for a loss of 40 yards, as well as a team-high 12 quarterback hits and one fumble recovery.
After reviewing the tape of the Broncos’ 24-10 Super Bowl victory against Carolina, Phillips said Ware saved his finest game for last.
“He played a great game,” Phillips recently said on Mile High Sports radio. “He was there to recover the fumble for the touchdown. Actually, Malik (Jackson) kind of took it away from him. He almost had a touchdown. He had two sacks, he played the running game tremendously well and he had a lot of hits on the quarterback.”
Broncos general manager John Elway met with Ware’s agent at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis in February to discuss a possible restructuring of his contract to clear cap space.
The Broncos place high value on their cornerbacks and edge rushers to anchor their defense, so retaining Ware was a priority — especially because his role transcended his pass-rushing abilities. Von Miller, the Broncos’ Super Bowl 50 MVP, credited Ware, one of his idols, for aiding his development on and off the field the past two seasons.
After Super Bowl 50, Ware, who will turn 34 in July, made it clear he planned to return for a 12th NFL season.
“I’ve got a lot of gas in the tank,” he said. “Von was the one that added that gas to that fire for me. That’s why I’m playing the way that I’m playing right now. I don’t think about retiring. God still wants me to play. That’s why I’m doing what I’m doing. When I start bringing the cane out, you guys make sure that you tell me, ‘DeMarcus, it’s time to hang the cleats up.’ ”
The Broncos have also met with Ryan Clady’s agent multiple times to discuss a possible pay cut for the veteran tackle, but there has been no resolution.