It’s not going to be an easy free agency period for the Dallas Cowboys, who are way over the cap limit, which makes keeping Anthony Spencer, one of the best linebackers hitting the free agent market in 2013, very difficult, unless they can restructure their deal with Tony Romo.

There is the option of using the franchise tag on Spencer, who finished last season with a career high 11 sacks (beware the contract year, though) and after spending the first six seasons of his career with the Dallas Cowboys, Spencer is looking to get that big contract to comfortable set him for the fourth decade of his life. A franchise tag would cost about $10.6 million for the Cowboys, and they want to avoid it for now, especially because they can’t afford to, being $20 million over the cap.

When you have a great quarterback — and we’re fortunate to have one – they take up a significant amount of your cap space. Tony has been a great partner to us but he also understands it has ramifications in terms of what we can and can’t do with the cap.

Romo is the key. His contract expires after the 2013 season, which means the Dallas Cowboys are trying to rework it, along with an extension, so that the cap hit they take for 2013 off of his deal will be significantly less than the team-high $16.8 million it is worth right now. The problem? While Romo has been willing to work out deals with the Cowboys before, he might be tempted to taste free agency in 2014, just to see what he’s worth around the league, which might make it difficult for him & Dallas to work out a deal. If the Cowboys don’t lower Romo’s cap number and allow him to finish the final year of his contract, the team will carry over $8.1 million in dead money after his deal voids following the 2013 season.

The Cowboys moving to a 4-3 defense in 2013 isn’t hurting Spencer’s stock or willingness to play for them. He has no problem playing as a defensive end, which some experts think is the more suitable position for him. The bigger problem is his contract; even if the Cowboys manage to get under the $122 million salary cap, giving Spencer the $10-12 million a season he wants is going to be very difficult.

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