- Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer
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The Cowboys’ front office gets heavily criticized for the contracts that end up being bad values, so it’s only right to give credit for having the foresight to avoid making a long-term mistake with Anthony Spencer.
The Cowboys were wise to back away from the negotiating table, ending talks with Spencer and agent Jordan Woy. It’s been a cordial dance over the last couple of years, but the gap didn’t close nearly enough between Spencer’s desire to be paid like a Pro Bowler and the Cowboys’ unwillingness to come close to committing to that kind of money over the long haul.
So the sides have agreed to just let Spencer play out the season for the one-year, franchise-tag deal again. After being franchise-tagged two straight years, Spencer will hit the open market with no restrictions in the offseason.
It’s been a costly waiting game for the Cowboys, who paid Spencer $8.8 million last season and owe him $10.6 million in 2013, but it worked out well a year ago. Spencer shattered his previous career high with 11 sacks while continuing to be an outstanding run defender.
That’s one reason that this would be a terrible time to make a major multi-year commitment to Spencer.
Let’s see Spencer, who never had more than six sacks during his first five NFL seasons, prove that his 11-sack production wasn’t an outlier.
Let’s see Spencer, who turns 30 in January, prove that he can succeed as a 4-3 defensive end in the NFL after being a 3-4 outside linebacker since the Cowboys picked him in the first round of the 2007 draft.
Even if Spencer produces in his new positions, the Cowboys are wise to wait and see how 2012 third-round pick Tyrone Crawford develops before deciding to commit to a huge contract to keep Spencer.
The Cowboys are enamored with the potential of Crawford, whose 6-foot-4, 285-pound frame is ideal for a 4-3 strongside defensive end. If they consider Crawford capable of being a starter, a strong case can be made for letting Spencer leave regardless of his 2012 performance.
It’s a matter of money. Why pay Spencer $8 million per year when Crawford can do his job while costing only $733,183 and $828,813 against the cap the next two seasons?
A franchise that is constantly fighting the salary cap needs all the quality six-figure starters it can get. Paying big money to hang on to veterans too long put the Cowboys in that fight in the first place.