New deal for Hatcher?
Hatcher has been defense's best
It's a good thing the Cowboys didn't give Spencer the megabuck multiyear deal he wanted. Who knows if he'll ever be the same player after undergoing the dreaded microfracture surgery.
Chalk Spencer up as another example of why it's rarely wise to pay age in the NFL.
Hatcher, however, would be an exception if the Cowboys can reach a reasonable deal with the defensive tackle. Agent Jordan Woy and owner/general manager Jerry Jones might have different interpretations of "reasonable," but I'm thinking a contract in the three-year, $15 million range.
There is no debating that Hatcher's three-year, $6 million deal that expires at the end of the season has been a remarkable bargain for the Cowboys. He has established himself as a critical element of the Dallas defense and the culture that Jason Garrett has worked so hard to create at Valley Ranch.
Can the Cowboys afford not to keep Hatcher?
The 3-technique tackle is arguably the most important position in Monte Kiffin's Tampa 2 scheme. There were questions about whether the 6-foot-6, 300-pound Hatcher could play with the leverage required to excel at that position, but he quieted those doubts with an outstanding training camp and has crushed them with dominant performances in the first three weeks.
Hatcher has been a disruptive force, racking up eight quarterback pressures and three sacks and playing strong against the run. How could the Cowboys replace that production? They obviously can't count on a broken-down Jay Ratliff. Do they draft a defensive tackle early? Sign a free agent?
No matter what, the Cowboys will be paying a premium price at that position. Why not make that investment in Hatcher, whose production and leadership are known commodities to the Cowboys' front office and coaching staff?
There's only one good reason: Hatcher's age. He turns 32 next summer.
But he's a young 31 by NFL standards. Hatcher was a part-time player before finally earning a starting job in 2011. He doesn't have nearly as much wear and tear on his body as most veteran defensive linemen.
At 31, Hatcher's arrow is still on the rise. He's due for a big raise, but that age could be the reason the Cowboys are able to sign him to a reasonable deal.
There'd be risk involved due to his age, but good luck replacing a leader who has been the best player on the Dallas defense so far this season.
DT will get better offer elsewhere
Jason Hatcher is off to a fantastic start this season. He's become a leader on and off the field for the Cowboys.
He's taken on more of a vocal role in the locker room, something that's needed at Valley Ranch.
He's a valuable member of the franchise, but he who won't play in Dallas next season.
The problem with Hatcher is age: He's 31 and the Cowboys don't typically pay defensive linemen huge contracts.
Just ask Chris Canty, Stephen Bowen and Marcus Spears. Canty and Bowen left the Cowboys for big contracts elsewhere. Spears was a former first-round pick and couldn't get a big-money offer from the team. Spears received a couple of one-year tenders before he finally left after a two-year offer.
This isn't a personal thing between Hatcher and the Cowboys, but coach Jason Garrett said it best Monday afternoon: The team has gotten younger the past few years.
Jerry Jones, who makes the final decisions regarding the draft, listened to his coaches instead of his personnel people and moved down.
What did that get him? Nothing.
Defensive tackle Jay Ratliff has seen better days, and while Jones was hoping for a return for Week 1, all he's received is an empty locker. Ratliff is on the PUP list for six weeks.
After what's happened to the defensive line, additions like George Selvie and Nick Hayden have been nice, but the long-term future there remains in doubt. It would seem the Cowboys are going younger.
Spencer is a free agent coming off major knee surgery. Hatcher, if all goes well, should finish 2013 strong.
But the Cowboys' track record points to him getting paid by somebody else.
The Cowboys will most likely get younger at the defensive tackle position by not only letting Hatcher go in free agency but finally cutting Ratliff.
Hatcher sees the signs.
He sees the Cowboys hanging on to young offensive linemen such as Ronald Leary. Hatcher also sees the 2014 draft class.
Mel Kiper's Big Board has four defensive linemen in the top 15 and six in the top 25 overall players.
Scouts Inc. has six defensive tackles ranked in its top 32 players for 2014.
Hatcher is a solid player. A team-first guy. Someone you want in your locker room.
But the business of the NFL says the Cowboys won't retain him.
103.3 FM ESPN PODCASTS
Glenn "Stretch" Smith joins Ian Fitzsimmons and Tim MacMahon to discuss the impact Anthony Spencer's injury will have on the Cowboys. Could we see more Jason Hatcher at end? The guys discuss.
Nate Newton joins Ian Fitzsimmons and Tim MacMahon for Overreaction Monday to discuss the Cowboys' dominant win over St. Louis and preview their upcoming game in San Diego.