- Dan Graziano, ESPN Staff Writer
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The story out of Dallas, per Calvin Watkins, is that the Dallas Cowboys and Anthony Spencer have broken off talks about a long-term deal and that Spencer will play the 2013 season on his one-year, $10.6 million franchise-player tender. The two sides still have until July 15 to work out a long-term deal, but Calvin's source says it's not going to happen, which puts Spencer in line to be an unrestricted free agent in 2014. To franchise him again next year would cost the Cowboys more than $15 million, and it's extremely unlikely that they would do that.
What's it all mean? Well, maybe nothing. Sometimes this happens when a contract negotiation isn't going well -- one side walks away from the table either out of frustration or in an effort to scare the other side into moving. There remain 20 days for this story to change again, regardless of how final we're expected to believe this decision is.
But since it never seemed likely in the first place that the Cowboys and Spencer would find their way to a long-term deal, it shouldn't be a surprise if they don't agree on one before July 15. Spencer is coming off an 11-sack season, and his move from 3-4 outside linebacker to 4-3 defensive end will shift him to a higher NFL income bracket if he performs well in it. He's also got $10.6 million guaranteed coming this year as a result of the Cowboys' questionable decision (in light of where the pass-rusher market ended up not going) to franchise him for the second year in a row, so he has no incentive to accept a longer-team deal that includes a penny less than that. Spencer's in a good spot and likely has no desire to agree to a long-term deal unless it's one that puts him in line with the league's top pass-rushers. That's not to say I believe he is that, but his current position in the market allows him to position himself that way in negotiations.
Bottom line: Unless he has a bad year or gets hurt and they can bring him back cheaply, Spencer's likely not a Cowboy long-term. Two consecutive years of franchise tags have inflated his salary starting point, and if he plays well in 2013 he'll be a hot free-agent commodity, especially as someone who'll have demonstrated the ability to rush the passer in a 3-4 defense as well as a 4-3. Dallas' best chance to lock up Spencer long-term, if that's what it wants to do, is to get it done by July 15. But it sounds as though that ship has more or less sailed.