Ware announced his NFL retirement via Twitter on Monday after 12 seasons of excellence that saw him emerge as one of the best pass-rushers of his generation:
The 34-year-old compiled 138.5 sacks, good for eighth all time, leading the league in 2008 and 2010.
He was named NFC Defensive Player of the Year award during that 2008 campaign, recording 20 sacks and matching a career high with 84 total tackles. Every one of his seven All-Pro selections came as a Cowboy, where he spent the first nine years of his career. Ware is the team’s all-time leader in sacks by 22.5, though Ed “Too Tall” Jones played the early part of his career without sacks recognized as an official stat.
“That’s where everything started for me,” Ware said in 2015, per Charean Williams of the Star-Telegram. “I was part of the Cowboys’ organization for nine years and put in a lot of sweat and tears there. Jerry Jones is a great owner, and it’s a great organization. Coming back there and maybe being able to be in the Ring of Honor and being able to do some things for the community, it’ll be awesome. It’s home for me and for my kids.”
While Dallas is where Ware (sorry) had his most extended individual success, he didn’t reach the team pinnacle until his three-year stint with the Denver Broncos. Ware earned Pro Bowl berths in each of his first two seasons in Denver and helped push an all-time great Broncos defense to a Super Bowl victory in 2015.
Still effective as a pass-rusher in 2015, Ware’s age and workload began to take a toll in his final two seasons. After missing just three games over the first decade of his NFL career, Ware missed 11 in 2015 and 2016. He was placed on injured reserve with a back injury prior to the Broncos’ Week 17 matchup with the Oakland Raiders, leaving him out of the lineup for his final game.
His 2016 season was by far his worst as a pro. Limited to 10 games, Ware recorded just 15 tackles and four sacks, playing a part-time role as Miller and Shane Ray took on more responsibility.
Ware’s next stop will almost certainly be the Hall of Fame, where he’ll have a chance to go in on the first ballot. There are few pass-rushers in this generation with his resume, and the fact that he stepped away now rather than prolonging his career in a part-time role will only help his cause.