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Cameron Wake and DeMarcus Ware negotiations: Same goals, different results

Consider Cameron Wake and DeMarcus Ware.

Both are highly decorated pass rushers. Wake is 34 years old and Ware turns 34 in July.

Both men fought injuries last season. Wake struggled early in 2015 with a hamstring injury and then suffered an Achilles' tendon rupture in October, ending his season after seven games. He finished with seven sacks. Ware missed five games in 2015 due to back problems, ended the season with only 10 starts and collected 7.5 sacks in the regular season.

(It must be said Ware got hot in the postseason, collecting three sacks in three games.)

Anyway, both the Dolphins and the Broncos zeroed in on their veteran pass rushers as needing pay cuts/restructures this offseason. Both had high salary cap values. Both are getting on in age. Both are likely going to be on snap counts in 2016 -- starters still, but veterans who will be managed throughout games so that they don't wear down or get injured.

Two NFL teams coming up with similar plans for two venerable, highly paid, highly effective pass rushers.

The Broncos succeeded in their plan.

Per ProFootballTalk.com, Ware agreed to reduce his compensation from $10 million to $6.5 million. Of the amount, $4 million is fully guaranteed, which means he most likely won’t have to worry about being cut on the eve of the start of the regular season.

Ware can earn the $3.5 million back by doing what he is supposed to do -- sack the quarterback. He gets $1.25 million for eight sacks, $2.5 million for nine, $3 million for 11, and $3.5 million for 13.

PFT's reporting found that Ware and his representatives believed that he’d earn $10 million or more this year on the open market, but Ware didn’t want to change teams. 


So why couldn't the Dolphins succeed in their plan?

The Dolphins wanted to reduce Wake's $9.8 million cap figure for 2016 but that plan went south after multiple attempts, including a face-to-face meeting at the Indianapolis Combine in February.

And here we have a clear line of distinction drawn in what should be twin attempts by two NFL teams to accomplish the same offseason contract maneuver with two equivalent players.

So why would the Broncos succeed and the Dolphins fail?

Obviously, I do not have all the specifics because I am not on the phone calls between Wake's agents and the Dolphins representatives (likely Dawn Aponte). But it is bothersome that this didn't work for Miami and I blame both sides.

Obviously Wake and his side didn't see possibly leaving the Dolphins as a problematic end to failed negotiations. And, yes, getting cut is always a possibility when a team wants to do a contract adjustment and the player declines -- ask Brent Grimes.

Obviously Wake didn't want to make concessions on the same level as Ware did.

Obviously Wake's side was not motivated to stay in Miami come what may, including a pay cut.

But also, obviously, the Dolphins were not as adept at working this negotiation as the Broncos were on their side. Perhaps that is because the Dolphins side doesn't have the same fallback of past success to pitch to a player as what the Broncos have -- which is a Dolphins failure of another level. The Dolphins cannot tell a player, "Stay with us and win another Super Bowl."

But I'm told it was more than that.

Whereas the Broncos negotiation with Ware was almost entirely amicable, I'm told the Dolphins negotiation with Wake had "tension."


Why is it the Broncos can get a 33-year-old pass rusher with a limited history with the team, coming off an injury season, to work out a deal, but the Dolphins cannot get a 34-year-old pass rusher with a long history (since 2009) with the team, coming off an injury season, to work out a similar deal?


There are reasons some teams compete for division titles and get in the playoffs and compete for Super Bowls consistently. And there are reasons other teams do not.