The Dallas Cowboys have reportedly placed the franchise tag on free agent outside linebacker Anthony Spencer. This means Spencer will play for the Cowboys in 2012 with a base salary of $8.8 million. The Cowboys made the move roughly an hour before Monday’s 3:00 p.m. deadline. By using the franchise tag on Spencer, the Cowboys have elected to gamble the future of receiver Laurent Robinson, who should have received the tag from Dallas.
Spencer isn’t a bad player, but he’s replaceable. While many believe the same about Robinson, it simply isn’t true. The Cowboys will never find another receiver of his talent willing to man the No. 3 role in the passing game. He’s now an unrestricted free agent, free to sign wherever he chooses following his best professional season – one in which he led Dallas with 11 touchdowns while only starting four games.
ESPN Dallas’ Jean Jacques Taylor and I had this argument last week and I’ll say again I’ll bet whatever anyone is willing that Robinson will become the No. 1 receiver for another team if Dallas lets him go. Despite his No. 3 slot on the Cowboys’ depth chart, he’s the best receiver in Dallas and that’s coming from a huge Miles Austin fan and an even bigger believer in Dez Bryant’s potential.
The Cowboys’ top two offensive players don’t sell many, if any, jerseys. However, they’re still the most valuable players on this unit. Robinson and fullback Tony Fiammetta make the Cowboys’ offense click. Tony Romo never looked more comfortable than he did throwing to Robinson in the red zone and that’s invaluable to an offense that’s been shaky under the direction of Jason Garrett.
On the flip side, Spencer simply isn’t worth $8.8 million. Obviously, paying a No. 3 receiver money meant for a No. 1 receiver isn’t a smart financial move, either, but the Cowboys can’t let Robinson get away. Paying him that one-year franchise tag money would be worth it if Jerry Jones could sign him to a long-term extension sometime during the 2012 season.
Spencer had his best season in 2011, but a lot of players have their best years when they’re in the final one of their contract. Even then, Spencer didn’t play well enough to validate the Cowboys using a first-round draft pick on him in 2007. The numbers he put up in 2011 were the numbers expected of him in his second season, not his fifth.
In addition, the Cowboys don’t need Spencer if the team makes the smart move in switching to the 4-3 defense. His build is ideal for a 3-4 outside linebacker, but he simply hasn’t produced. Granted, that’s due, in part, to the poor play of the Cowboys’ defensive ends.
Nonetheless, Spencer simply isn’t worth the $8.8 million franchise tag and not only that, but Jerry Jones is going to overpay him on a new extension just like he did Orlando Scandrick and Marcus Spears last off-season. That simply isn’t good business, especially coming from a self-proclaimed savvy businessman like Jones.
Even though many may claim the Cowboys shouldn’t use the franchise tag on Robinson (you’re wrong), there’s still no valid reasoning for using it on Spencer and then overpaying him for just average play. As long as the Cowboys continue to do this with mediocre players, these 8-8 seasons will continue.