- Calvin Watkins, ESPN Staff Writer
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Tony Romo's contract is done.
So who'll be next to get paid? Here's the top five Cowboys who are in line to get nice, big contracts:
1. Anthony Spencer. He's been franchised for $10.6 million and the team wants to keep him long-term. Spencer is coming off a career-high 11 sacks in 2012 and is moving from outside linebacker to defensive end. The Cowboys value him as a run stopper with excellent pass rush skills. By keeping him, the Cowboys won't be forced to draft another defensive end for the future.
2. Sean Lee. Dubbed "the brains of the defense" last season by then-defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, Lee became the unit's second-most important member behind DeMarcus Ware in 2012. Health is a factor, however, as Lee has yet to play a full 16-game season in three NFL seasons. But his leadership skills and playmaking ability pushes the 26-year-old to the upper echelon of those needing new contracts.
3. Bruce Carter. The Cowboys had a first-round grade on Carter when he came out of North Carolina. Like Lee, he's an emerging talent with the smarts, playmaking skills and leadership qualities this team needs. Carter's pass rush skills at outside linebacker in the 4-3 gives the Cowboys confidence this is one position they won't have to address for sometime.
4. Dez Bryant. His desire, toughness and talent is never a question. Bryant is turning into one of the emotional leaders of this team, and the Cowboys need to take advantage. His off-the-field issues have subsided and you can see with each game his command of the offense is getting better and better. Is Bryant an elite receiver yet? Nope. But he's getting close.
5. Tyron Smith. If you have a chance to lock up a talented tackle, left or right, you do it quickly. Smith struggled early with penalties, but morphed into a solid left tackle in 2012. When Smith said he wanted to be a Pro Bowl player the day he was drafted from USC, it raised eyebrows. Guess what? Smith has the skills to do it.