Outside linebacker Anthony Spencer will play for the Cowboys for at least $8.8 million after being franchised. The Cowboys could still work a long-term deal with Spencer or let him hit the free-agent market in 2013.
When the Cowboys selected two pass rushers in the draft -- Tyrone Crawford in the third round and Kyle Wilber in the fourth -- it sent a message that they not only want backups but replacements ready in case they lose Spencer.
Crawford started in only one of his two seasons at Boise State after spending two seasons in junior college. He's a little raw in terms of technique and playing time, which the Cowboys think is a good thing.
"We feel like he has a tremendous amount of upside," coach Jason Garrett said. "He played at a very good program. A number of players over the last couple of days were drafted from Boise. It is a competitive and nationally ranked program that plays against great competition. They practice the right way; they play the right way.
"We feel that he has grown every year he has been in that program. He has the physical potential to grow more. When you play the way he plays, you just feel like you put those things together. His relative inexperience, we feel his upside gives him a real chance to be what we want at that position."
Wilber is a little more polished than Crawford and has shown flexibility by playing in two different schemes at Wake Forest -- a 4-3 and 3-4. He can play end or outside linebacker, but it seems if he gets snaps in the nickel he could boost his stature with the coaches.
"It helped me more with my athleticism," said Wilber on switching schemes. "It let teams know that I can drop in coverage as well. A lot of teams told me that I had bad hips and I was able to prove them my senior year and show them that I’m actually able to drop into zone coverages and re-route receivers and athletic enough to stay with running backs and tight ends."
The Cowboys value Spencer but are not sure what to pay a player who some believe has underachieved. He had six sacks last season but none in the last four weeks, which included two losses to their NFC East rival New York Giants.
The Cowboys tell us Spencer is good against the run -- he did stuff seven plays for no yards last season, and he's good in pass coverage. Yet he had only one pass breakup last season. He had a career-high seven in 2009.
You get the feeling the Cowboys know what they have in Spencer, sort of what they have in running back Felix Jones, a good complementary player.
Spencer wants starter money for his position, an average of $8-$10 million a season. The Cowboys don't seem to want to pay that right now.
The team's addition of two new pass rushers raises more questions about Spencer's future.