ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — DeMarcus Ware boarded the plane for Denver on Wednesday morning, looked in the row across from him and saw a sleeping Aqib Talib.
Yep, the Broncos mean business.
Before Ware even had a chance to sit down with Broncos boss John Elway, he saw exactly how serious the team was about fixing its defense.
Ware became Denver’s latest defensive addition in free agency, agreeing to a three-year, $30 million deal. That’s $110 million — $60 million guaranteed — for Ware, safety T.J. Ward and Talib, the last two of whom signed Tuesday.
“They’re trying to make a statement — a statement we’re a team to be reckoned with,” the 31-year-old Ware said. “Their mentality is a ‘now’ mentality. Not looking forward to next season or the season after that, the time is now.”
Out of work less than 24 hours, Ware wasn’t fully intending to agree to a deal right away with Denver when he flew into town. But he was persuaded by Elway, the Hall of Fame quarterback turned executive who stressed to Ware the Broncos’ commitment to defense even with a prolific offense led by Peyton Manning.
Elway got his man — again. He did so two years ago with Manning and last offseason with Wes Welker.
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 nearly 25 points a game last season, which was 22nd in the league.
“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 flew in from Dallas on the same flight as Ware, not even realizing it until halfway through the trip. He was ecstatic to later hear that Elway enticed Ware to join the Broncos.
“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.”
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 underwent offseason surgery to fix his elbow.
Now that Ware’s fully healthy again, he’s “going to be able to get after the passer,” Elway said.
No doubt, especially playing opposite Von Miller. This was a rough season for Miller, beginning with a six-game drug suspension and ending with a torn ACL on Dec. 22.
Ware said he has a good relationship with Miller and hopes to get the 2011 rookie of the year back on track by serving as a mentor.
“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.”
Talib said there’s no bad blood between him and the Broncos after he tweaked his knee early in the AFC championship game against Denver when he was bumped by Welker on a crossing route.
Maybe at first, but not anymore. Not after watching the replay “1,000 times.”
“Wes is a good friend of mine,” Talib said. “I can tell you he didn’t do it on purpose.”
Talib appreciated Patriots coach Bill Belichick sticking up for him after the game. Belichick called it “one of the worst plays” he’d seen in nearly four decades of coaching. The league’s officiating chief later ruled it a legal hit by Welker.
“I told (Belichick) thank you and I respected what he did,” Talib said.
As for Talib’s balky hip, well, that’s not an issue. Hasn’t been since his days with Tampa Bay.
“The Patriots have their way of reporting stuff,” Talib said. “The injury I had was actually a quad injury, reported as a hip injury. That’s how they do things.”
Talib said he received some interest from Washington, New Orleans, San Francisco and, of course, New England, but liked the fit with the Broncos.
“I think we all are guys who play with attitude on the field,” Talib said.
Ware couldn’t agree more, especially with the Super Bowl loss being a motivator.
“They’re saying, ‘We’re going to act right now and not let that happen again,’” Ware said.