Among the latter category was outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware, who was released by the Dallas Cowboys on Tuesday evening, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com.
As of yet, the Patriots have not made any big-name signings, but Rapoport reports that "six playoff teams" have inquired about Ware's services.
How much interest has DeMarcus Ware received? Six playoff teams have called. He’d like to move quickly if possible.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 11, 2014
My math is hazy, but in a 12-team playoff field, that puts the odds at a coin flip that the Patriots were one of the teams that called.
It's no surprise that a four-time All-Pro would be such a highly sought-after commodity. Ware's production has been off the charts; he logged 117 sacks in 141 games with the Cowboys from 2005-2013. He has 6 seasons with over 10 sacks, and led the league in sacks twice (20 in 2008; 15.5 in 2010).
He has also been very durable for most of his career, and has missed just three games in his career due to injury.
At 6-foot-4 and 245 pounds, Ware's smaller frame makes him a better fit as a 3-4 outside linebacker. He played that spot for the Cowboys for most of his career, but was a defensive end in Monte Kiffin's Tampa 2 (a 4-3 defense).
Examining his fit for the Patriots, Ware would fit several ways into New England's hybrid front. He could be a defensive end in their base 4-3 front. He's not built ideally for that scheme, but he could be valuable subbing in for either Chandler Jones or Rob Ninkovich, who each played over 96 percent of the Patriots' defensive snaps in 2013. Ware could also return to his old spot as a 3-4 outside linebacker next to Jones, who lined up as a 5-technique defensive end in three-man fronts in 2013.
Where the Patriots would really benefit from a player like Ware is in their sub package. They went to their sub defense 67 percent of the defensive snaps last year, according to ESPN Boston's Mike Reiss, so Ware would have plenty of opportunities to contribute in that niche role.
The problem, however, is that Ware may be able to fetch a more lucrative deal from a team that's in more dire need of his services. The Patriots may not be willing to give him more than $5 million a year, which would match the number given to Ninkovich in his extension last year. Other teams may be willing to go up to $6 or $7 million.
With only $14,467,504 in cap space, the Patriots don't have enough to get into a bidding war — especially if they want to hang onto key free agents Julian Edelman and Aqib Talib, as well. If the market plays out in the Patriots' favor, though, Ware would be a good fit for the defense.
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