With the deadline for NFL players under the franchise tag to sign new contracts being today at 4:00 p.m. EST, the Dallas Cowboys will not reach a new deal with linebacker Anthony Spencer, meaning that he will play in 2013 under the franchise tag, earning $10.6 million.
But while Spencer will enter the upcoming season with a heavy price tag and an uncertain future in Big D, playing for a new contract is the next best thing, and could lead to a great season for the seven-year pro.
In 2012, Spencer had a career-high 11 sacks, and for the first time in his career, provided the Cowboys with true impact play at a position, opposite DeMarcus Ware, that they hadn’t had since Greg Ellis left the team for the Oakland Raiders in 2009. Last year, Spencer’s career-high sack total was second on the team, as he accounted for nearly one-third of the team’s total sacks. At 29 years old, he could right now be in the prime of his career, and that can only be a positive thing for the Cowboys — whether he stays beyond this season or not — a team that has lacked a consistent pass rush really since Ellis’ departure.
Spencer will also benefit in 2013 from playing closer to the line of scrimmage, as both he and Ware will switch to defensive end in the team’s new Tampa-2 defense. This will not only allow Spencer to improve as a pass rusher, but also show his ability to defend against the run, which was on full display last year when he tallied a career-high 95 total tackles, besting his previous career high by 28.
In all sports in general, not just football, we have become accustomed to seeing players in contract years have their best seasons in hopes of getting a big pay day in the next offseason.
So while Spencer nor the front office know of his long-term future in Dallas, they could certainly enjoy the benefits of the play of not only a guy coming off a career year, but a player wanting to prove his worth.