The Dallas Cowboys released franchise sacks leader DeMarcus Ware on Tuesday to save salary cap space.
Owner Jerry Jones said in a statement it was "extremely difficult" to make a decision announced just as free agency opened Tuesday.
"DeMarcus Ware, through his performance on the field and his outstanding character, is someone who is held in the highest regard within the Dallas Cowboys family," said Jones in the statement. "He is worthy of our greatest respect, and we want what is best for him and his family."
Ware broke Harvey Martin's 30-year-old franchise record for sacks in 2013, but got to the quarterback a career-low six times and missed games for the first time in his nine-year career.
Ware was set to count $16 million against the salary cup. His release saves about $7.4 million and gives Dallas about $9 million to spend at the moment.
Jones said he told Ware one of his options in free agency would be coming back to the Cowboys.
The 31-year-old Ware had 117 sacks in Dallas and went to seven Pro Bowls.
The Cowboys put Ware's No. 94 jerseys on deep discount in their official web store Tuesday afternoon. The jerseys were being sold for 75% off, or about $25.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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