ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — The Denver Broncos kept their free agency focus on defense as they agreed to a three-year, $30 million deal with pass rusher DeMarcus Ware.
Ware didn’t fully intend to agree to a deal right away with Denver when he flew into town Wednesday morning, but was quickly persuaded by Broncos boss John Elway. The Hall of Fame quarterback turned executive stressed to Ware the Broncos’ commitment to defense even with a prolific offense led by Peyton Manning.
Elway’s words were backed up by his actions after reaching lucrative agreements with defensive backs T.J. Ward and Aqib Talib to open free agency on Tuesday.
“They’re trying to make a statement – a statement we’re a team to be reckoned with,” Ware said. “Their mentality is a now mentality. Not looking forward to next season or the season after that, the time is now.”
Ware was let go Tuesday by Dallas in a salary-cap move. He had a franchise-record 117 sacks for the Cowboys since being drafted in the first round in 2005. He had a career-low six sacks last season and missed games for the first time in his career because of a thigh injury. He also underwent offseason surgery to fix his elbow.
The 31-year-old Ware will play opposite of Von Miller, who’s rehabbing from an ACL injury he suffered on Dec. 22. It was a rough season for the 2011 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, one that began with Miller serving a six-game drug suspension. Ware said he has a good relationship with Miller and hopes to serve as a mentor as well.
“Von is one of those incredible athletes,” Ware said. “If you can really hone in on what you do best, and make yourself not think as much when you’re out there, he’ll be an even better athlete.”
Denver is on quite a spending spree so far in free agency, agreeing to deals with Ward, Talib and Ware for a combined $110 million (approximately $60 million guaranteed, including $20 million for Ware). The Broncos are trying to upgrade the talent on the roster, not knowing how long Manning will be running the offense.
It’s really no surprise the Broncos are concentrating on defense in the wake of a 43-8 loss to Seattle in the Super Bowl last month. Ward thinks the trio of new players brings not only leadership but a level of physicality to the field. Denver’s defense surrendered 356 yards and nearly 25 points a game last season.
“I think you see with Seattle’s defense last year – definitely defense wins championships,” Ward said. “(Ware and Talib) are two great players. I’m eager to get to work with them. I don’t know them personally yet, but I know what they do on the field. Those are two players I admire. I think we’ll work well together.”
Talib actually flew in from Dallas on the same flight as Ware, not even realizing it until halfway through the trip. He was ecstatic to hear that Elway brought Ware on board.
“Every year you just want to better your team,” Talib said. “Mr. Elway decided to better his team on defense this year, since the offense looks pretty good.”