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Tuesday, January 7, 2014
The return of Anthony Spencer

By Calvin Watkins

It's very early in the offseason, but the Dallas Cowboys should take a long look at bringing Anthony Spencer back to the team.

Spencer underwent microfracture surgery after playing in Week 2 against Kansas City. Spencer dealt with knee issues all summer and couldn't even practice fully during training camp.

Anthony Spencer
The Cowboys could use veteran depth on the D-line by retaining seven-year pro Anthony Spencer.
Given he was entering his free-agent year and he wouldn't be placed with the franchise tag again, he wanted -- or rather needed -- to play to show not only the Cowboys, but other NFL teams he was worth a big paycheck.

Spencer wasn't healthy and in his lone game this season, he had two tackles and two quarterback pressures coming off the bench. The microfracture surgery gives you pause about a long-term deal, but his Dallas-based agent Jordan Woy said Tuesday Spencer should be ready for training camp, if not sooner.

This is good news for Spencer because he might be available to work out for some teams in the spring as they begin the process of evaluating/signing free agents. But the Cowboys should give Spencer a two-year deal.

It shouldn't cost the team much to sign Spencer because he's already pocketed nearly $20 million in franchise tags the past two seasons and coming off major knee surgery he wouldn't have much leverage.

The Cowboys' salary cap situation is fluid because they're over the projected numbers for the 2014 cap. Yet, there is a deficiency along the defensive line and the Cowboys need to improve this group.

Starting defensive end DeMarcus Ware is coming off the worst season of his career after a career-low six sacks and battling through numerous injuries. The other starting end, George Selvie, played well in 2013 with seven sacks. But as Selvie enters the final year of his contract, there's no assurances he's a long-term answer at the position.

Jason Hatcher, the starting defensive tackle, led the team with 11 sacks and tied with Selvie with the team-lead with eight tackles for loss. Hatcher enters his free-agent year looking for a big deal from some team and that's not likely to come from the Cowboys, who don't have the projected available cap space to pay him well.

Nick Hayden, the other starting tackle, had some bright moments as a natural fit in the 4-3, and there are questions regarding his long-term ability to make plays.

The Cowboys have younger assets in Tyrone Crawford (who is coming off an injury) and Ben Bass (shoulder injury) who might help the line in 2014. But you don't know how effective they'll be post-injuries.

Adding Spencer, however, could bolster a unit in need of improvement.