The Cowboys tried to work out a long-term deal with outside linebacker Anthony Spencer the last few weeks but couldn't complete one, so instead of allowing him to hit the open market, the Cowboys placed the franchise tag on him.
Spencer will get a projected $8.8 million in base salary for the 2012 season, barring a sudden change in the franchise tag. (The officials numbers haven't been released yet.)
The Cowboys will continue to have an open dialogue with Spencer's agent Roosevelt Barnes.
Coach Jason Garrett is excited to have Spencer back to the Cowboys.
"You compare him to guys around the league who play his position, he's among the better outside linebackers in a 3-4 defense," Garrett said Monday. "So we had that ability to use the franchise tag and we're excited to use it in his situation and excited to have him back and be a part of what our defense is going to be."
It seems unfair to compare Spencer to fellow outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware. But in 2011, Spencer finished with six sacks, none the last four weeks. Based on the coaches' statistics, Spencer was credited with seven quarterback hurries the last four weeks as well and two tackles for loss, coming in the Philadelphia game on Dec. 24.
Spencer finished the season with 31 quarterback pressures and eight tackles for loss.
Garrett's comments about Spencer being among the best at his spot, strong side linebacker, is a good compliment.
LaMarr Woodley plays Spencer's position in the Pittsburgh Steelers' version of the 3-4. Last season, Woodley had nine sacks and 11 quarterback pressures. Woodley played in just 10 games because of hamstring problems and his nine sacks came in the first eight weeks of the season.
San Diego's Travis LaBoy finished with one sack, six quarterback pressures and three tackles for loss in 14 games.
It's just a small sampling of what other outside linebackers do in comparison to Spencer.
"If you watch Spence play down-in-and-down out when he plays the run and he rushes the passer or covers in the passing game he does things really well and he does them easily," Garrett said. "We look at production and we look at how he produces week in and week out and it's more than just sacks. It's like some of the other things I was talking about. He shows up in games. He was an outstanding player on our team [in] two or three of the wins we had this year. A guy who shows up on defense, a guy who shows up on special teams -- he blocked a field goal. He's just one of those guys that's productive and production happens in a lot of different ways."