Same song, second verse: The Dallas Cowboys have added another free agent defensive lineman by re-signing Anthony Spencer, but that shouldn’t change anything for the team heading into the 2014 NFL Draft. This comes just over a month after the team signed Henry Melton to a four-year deal that includes three teams options in 2015, ’16 and ’17. Both players are nice additions, but they’re not enough to justify passing on a top-notch defensive lineman with the No. 16 pick in this year’s draft.
On Saturday, Spencer’s agent, Jordan Woy, tweeted the team and his client agreed to a third straight one-year deal, and although the numbers haven’t yet been disclosed, this contract won’t be worth the astronomical amounts Spencer made in 2012 and ’13 as a franchise tagged player. He’s coming off two knee surgeries after missing essentially all of last season and isn’t expected back for training camp, although he hasn’t been ruled out.
Thus, this is another “prove it” deal, assuming the numbers are very low as expected. With minimal salary cap space, this is a somewhat solid move by Dallas, although the team is now banking on its top two veteran defensive linemen to still be able to produce with both coming off major injuries. Sure, Spencer recorded 11 sacks in his last full season, but that was with a healthy knee and DeMarcus Ware rushing off the opposite edge. Nobody knows — including Spencer — what he’s capable of in 2014.
In a perfect world, Melton and Spencer will become Rod Marinelli’s favorite players to coach on the Cowboys’ defensive line this year, but that’s anything but guaranteed. Even if that best-case scenario comes to pass, Dallas still desperately needs reliable depth across the defensive line and the team would be foolish not to use its first-round draft pick on a pass-rushing three-technique like Aaron Donald, a hole-plugging one-technique like Louis Nix, a surefire 4-3 defensive end like Kony Ealy or even a super-athletic project player like Anthony Barr.
The bottom line is Dallas can’t afford to waste its to pick on a player it doesn’t need like Johnny Manziel or Odell Backham. Heck, the Cowboys shouldn’t even consider an offensive lineman at No. 16 considering how bad the defense has been over the past four years and what little Marinelli has to work with right now. The Spencer signing is a positive one with a lot of potential upside, but let’s not get carried away.