The rumors that have been circulating for the last few weeks about Anthony Spencer and the Cowboys finally proved to be true today. The Cowboys placed the franchise tag on Spencer this afternoon. I've got mixed emotions about the move.
I said a few weeks ago that I didn't like the idea of putting the tag on Spencer. And the reason I don't like it is because it guarantees Spencer $8.8 million this season if he chooses to sign the offer sheet. The good news is that the Cowboys can lower his cap number if they can come to a long term agreement with him. I'm not so sure I like the idea of a long term contract now.
I was hoping the Cowboys would either get Spencer signed to a reasonable deal prior to the start of free agency or just let him test the market if there wasn't an agreement in place before free agency kicks off. But apparently Jerry and Stephen Jones didn't want to roll the dice and risk losing Spencer to another team if they blew him away with a big offer like the Giants did with Chris Canty a few years ago.
I like Spencer as a player but I don't love him. I think he is a solid run defender and a decent pass rusher, but I certainly don't think he is worth the $8.8 million he is guaranteed now. And what's worse to me is that Spencer now has a lot of leverage in any ongoing negotiations. If he doesn't like the long term number the Cowboys are presenting him in an offer than he can just sign the one year franchise tag deal and the Cowboys are stuck with a giant cap hit of $8.8 million for an above average but far from great player.
The Cowboys have a lot of options they can use to free up more cap space if they still want to go after a big name free agent. But it doesn't sit well with me that Spencer is being paid so much money to be a good run defender and decent pass rusher. I'd love to see the Cowboys work out a reasonable 3-4 year deal with a better cap number, but why would Spencer go for a lesser deal now? He would be a fool to take a deal that takes any money out of his pocket.
And, if the contract is going to be a big one, that means Spencer will be the guy at strong side linebacker for several more years. It makes it hard to draft high for another pass rusher if you are going to commit so much money to Spencer. Maybe the Cowboys have decided to bite the bullet for one season and draft another outside linebacker early in the draft. A one year deal would make sense in that scenario since Spencer's replacement would get one year to learn the system and get comfortable at the NFL level.
I'm hoping now that Spencer has the franchise tag that it will turn out to be a one year deal. Spencer will have loads of motivation to earn his next contract and the Cowboys can draft to find his replacement after one more season. I do understand that it would have left a gaping hole heading into the draft if the Cowboys had lost Spencer in free agency. I just don't like the idea of paying a guy of his level so much money.