Former Dallas Cowboys sack master DeMarcus Ware recently advised Dez Bryant that he should take a pay cut to help the Cowboys and remain on the team. Ware cited that other Dallas leaders such as Tony Romo, Jason Witten, and he had all done the same at certain points. One problem; none of that ever happened.
Ware said the following as part of a longer discussion on Dez’s future in Dallas:
“With the $12 million that they owe him, $12.5 million for the next two years, you’re going to have to take a pay cut to go and get the extra guys to help out your team and be that team player. I had to do it. Romo had to do it. Witten had to do it. All those guys have to do those things.”
Even with our limited resources in our moms’ basements, it didn’t take much to debunk Ware’s claim. Not only did DeMarcus never take a pay cut during his time with the Cowboys, but his refusal to do so was the exact reason why he ended up being released by Dallas and landing with the Denver Broncos in 2014.
Similarly, neither Romo or Witten have ever taken pay cuts. Even without Super Bowl rings, both were among the highest-paid players at their positions for the majority of their careers.
Perhaps Ware’s comment was based on confusion, thinking about his deal being restructured rather than a true pay cut. All three players did restructure their contracts at numerous points, moving guaranteed money into later years to help create immediate cap space. This happens all the time in Dallas, with the most recent examples being our Pro Bowl offensive linemen.
But a restructure is NOT a pay cut. The total compensation does not change. All that changes is when paid bonus money is counted against the salary cap in each year of his contract. The player doesn’t lose a dime in the end.
True pay cuts can happen. One occurred in 2013 when offensive tackle Doug Free agreed to a reduced overall salary to remain with the team and avoid being released. It happened again in 2016 when Brandon Carr took a salary reduction to stay in Dallas. These were not restructures; the players accepted lower salaries and overall compensation so they could keep being Cowboys.
This isn’t to say that DeMarcus Ware is wrong about Dez Bryant. I agree that Bryant should take a pay cut given his performance level and effectiveness the last few seasons and what he projects to do going forward. Bryant is one of the most expensive receivers in the NFL and isn’t giving the team the kind of franchise play that his salary suggests.
But Ware’s inaccurate statement about his own history and that of other Cowboys figureheads needed to be challenged. DeMarcus was asking for Dez to do something that he and almost every other premiere player in the NFL would have, or actually have in Ware’s case, refused to do.
Tom Brady signing a contract below market value is one thing. That is a new deal that he and the team agreed to in the interests of their mutual success. But asking Dez to accept a reduction on a contract he signed just two years ago with Dallas, based on his market value at that time, is a very different request.
If Ware was genuinely confused about a pay cut versus a restructuring, he should know that it’s the Cowboys who’ve declined to move money around on Bryant’s deal. They’ve kept his guaranteed amounts fixed to preserve leverage in case they do want to release him. Dez would happily take a restructure if it was offered; it increases his job security in later years.
So while larger media outlets are reporting Ware’s advice to Dez as sage counsel from a Cowboys legend, don’t believe the hype. Ware, Tony Romo, and Jason Witten never took the pay cuts that DeMarcus claimed. In fact, Ware specifically refused to do so when asked in 2014.
But what do I know? I’m just a blogger.