One of the first things the Dallas Cowboys did this offseason was put the franchise tag once again on Anthony Spencer, but since then haven’t been in a real hurry to sign him on a new, multi-year deal, knowing that this year is going to be a big test for him.

Spencer isn’t too worried about not getting a new offer, but he is a bit concerned about what Dwight Freeney mentioned this week regarding a possible collusion between NFL owners, electing not to pay too much to free agents, and especially defensive ends who in the past enjoyed bigger contracts than the ones players like Cliff Avril was able to get when leaving from the Detroit Lions to the Seattle Seahawks.

Anthony Spencer

The Cowboys are shifting their defense from a 3-4 to a 4-3, which means both Spencer and DeMarcus Ware, maybe the most productive duo in the NFL when it came to sacks, are going to have a very different season in 2013, used to being a bit further away from the offensive line when they start their pass-rush. While for Spencer this is yet another season of a “contract year” scenario, with the Cowboys hoping that he’ll be just as good as last season (11 sacks, his career best), they’re also on the lookout for any hint in a dip in form.

Because they’ve elected to go with Monte Kiffin and his 4-3 defense, which means that anyone who struggles to make the adjustments won’t be staying on the team for long. Spencer, 29, was looking for a 4-year deal that would pay him around $9 million a season before getting the franchise tag for the second season in a row.

Next year? Well, he’ll have to be just as good, showing he can play effectively as a defensive end in a 4-3 system just as well as he had in the 3-4. Pulling that off and showing the same kind of ability to reach the quarterback might be enough to get him that multi-year deal in 12 months from now, with the Cowboys or anyone else.

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