IRVING, Texas -- With Anthony Spencer looking at season-ending microfracture surgery on his left knee, the easy thing to do is criticize Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones for putting the franchise tag on Spencer for a second straight season.
It’s a complete hindsight move and, frankly, wrong.
Jones is an easy target for a lot of things, but he can’t predict injury, especially to a guy who missed only six games in his first six seasons.
When it comes to the franchise tag, it comes down to what did the Cowboys know and when did they know it?
The defensive end market in free agency was soft, which they did not know before they had to use the tag on Spencer.
The Cowboys are paying Spencer $10.627 million this season, which is more than the top guys got on the market in terms of guaranteed money. But the Cowboys could not risk losing Spencer.
He was coming off his first Pro Bowl season. He was coming off a career-high 11 sacks. They felt he would be fine in the move from outside linebacker in a 3-4 to defensive end in a 4-3 just like DeMarcus Ware has shown.
They did not have a replacement on the roster and their focus in the draft was on the offensive line, especially in the first round.
Players and agents dislike the franchise tag because it is too limiting.
In Spencer’s case, he will have made $19.483 million the last two seasons. That’s a pretty good two-season pay day.
What this likely surgery does is limit Spencer’s value in the future, and what it could mean is the Cowboys bring him back at a team-friendly rate in 2013.
Could he have made more? Possibly, but the Cowboys used a tool that was collectively bargained by the owners and NFL Players Association.
If players don’t like the tag, then they need to complain to their union.