Delaying the inevitable usually isn’t a wise way of handling business, but the Dallas Cowboys continue to make indecision the leading plan in the way they’ve been handling the Anthony Spencer situation, preferring to see him getting paid under the franchise tender than actually commit years and money to the talented pass-rusher.
Spencer has been with the Cowboys since 2007, but last year had what usually happens in contract seasons: He had a breakout year, getting a career high 11 sacks, although it didn’t help the Cowboys end their playoff drought, now extending three consecutive seasons.
It did give the Cowboys a lot more confidence in their pass-rushing schemes for the future, even as they move ahead to a 4-3 alignment, putting both Spencer and DeMarcus Ware at the defensive end position instead of the outside linebacker they’ve gotten used to over the years.
Spencer will make $10.6 million next season after getting the franchise tag for a second consecutive year. He wants a long-term deal before his value starts dropping (turning 30 next January), but would very much like to remain a part of the Cowboys’ setup.
And the Cowboys? Looking at the market, things get confusing. Paul Kruger (five years, $40 million from the Browns) and Clay Matthews (five years, $66 million from the Packers) did OK this offseason in terms of getting big, not to mention huge deals, but others, like Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett (both with the Seahawks) didn’t do so well in terms of getting a lot of money out of their new team.
The Cowboys haven’t decided how elite Spencer is, not to mention a few big extensions they have to deal with pretty soon (Sean Lee, Dez Bryant, Tyron Smith and Bruce Carter). DeMarcus Ware is playing out a seven-year, $79 million deal he signed before the 2009 season. Giving a lot of money to Anthony Spencer as well, with all of their cap problems, might be a luxury they can’t afford.
So in the meantime, it’s about hoping that they make the most out of Spencer next season, but manage to win in the battle for him once he opts to free agency. Unless he shows that he truly belongs among the elite pass-rushers in the NFL, it’s very doubtful that the Cowboys will give him that huge long-term deal he’s waiting for. He’ll find another team, while the Cowboys might finally draft a meaningful defensive end in the first round.