Broncos GM John Elway admitted that Ware's lingering back injury is a concern, Nicki Jhabvala of The Denver Post reports. Ware's back injury cost him five games last season, but he ultimately returned for the final four weeks, then had 3.5 sacks in three playoff appearances. He remains highly effective when healthy, but it sounds as if this injury might be a nagging issue for the rest of his career, or at least for the 2016 season. The Broncos do have 2015 first-round selection Shane Ray, a defensive end/outside linebacker who had four sacks while playing limited snaps as a rookie.
Ware (back) did not participate in practice on Tuesday, the team's official site reports Head coach Gary Kubiak reported that the decision to sit Ware was precautionary. With Ware out and Von Miller away while his contract is negotiated, Shaq Barrett and Shane Ray saw extended reps. Expect both Barrett and Ray to see plenty of time in Ware's stead this season as the veteran is used more as a situational pass rusher to maximize his impact.
Ware agreed to a base salary reduction of his contract on Saturday, Troy Renck of the Denver Post reports. Ware will go from a $7 million salary and a $3 million roster bonus due Sunday to a $2 million base with the chance to make up to $10 million through incentives, per Ian Rapoport of NFL Network. The 33-year-old is expected to be used as a situational pass rusher next season, which didn't provide enough value to justify the largest cap hit on the defense.
Ware totaled 25 tackes, 7.5 sacks and a forced fumble in 2015. He followed up with 10 tackles and 3.5 sacks in the playoffs. Back issues hampered Ware during two stretches in the regular season, limiting him to 11 games. He showed in the playoffs, however, that he can still be a top-level edge rusher when healthy. Ware's 2016 cap number of $11.7 million has the potential of being Denver's second largest behind Demaryius Thomas, making him a possible candidate for restructuring. No matter how much he makes in 2016, Ware will likely be used more situationally, keeping him fresh in key moments and allowing young studs such as Shaq Barrett and Shane Ray opportunities to grow.
Ware collected five tackles and two sacks in Sunday's Super Bowl 50 victory over Carolina. Ware ended any hopes of a big play to end Carolina's first half by nailing Cam Newton for a sack. Nearly an entire half later, Carolina was down two scores and in hurry-up mode. On 2nd and 10 Newton spun out, avoided Malik Jackson and found himself smothered by Ware for a 14-yard loss. Ware waited 11 years to make his first big playoff push and didn't disappoint. When Denver drafted Shane Ray in the first round and watched Shaq Barrett impress while Ware's back hampered him during the season, the veteran looked like a potential cap casualty. With 5.5 sacks in his final five games, however, Ware has changed the conversation.
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