The Dallas Cowboys best defender last season was Anthony Spencer. In 2012 Spencer became what every Cowboys coach and fan believed he could be, one of the best 3-4 outside linebackers in the NFL. He was drafted to become a compliment to DeMarcus Ware but last year Spencer was the much better player.
Truth be told, Spencer was really good in 2011 too but the sacks still didn't add up to what many fans felt was an acceptable number, ignoring the fact Spencer continued to be perhaps the best run stopping outside linebacker in the league. I know being a run stuffer wasn't the reason Spencer was drafted but let's not dismiss the point that he's one of the best in the business at something extremely important on defense.
Last year Spencer set a career high in tackles with 55, and more importantly he also set a new career high with 11 sacks, while also dominating when the Cowboys needed it most. Spencer collected 5.5 sacks in the fourth quarter or overtime and posted his highest sack total in the month of December when Dallas needed his best.
I really like Spencer as a player and don't think the position switch will be a big deal for him or Ware since both were defensive ends in college, so right about know you might be asking yourself why shouldn't the Cowboys Spencer to a long-term deal?
The answer is simple, his age and the Cowboys salary cap over the next few years doesn't allow it. Spencer is 29-years old and signing players his age to a long-term deal will not be worth the money. Like many really good players his age, the contract would work for a few years but would hurt the team down the road. The Cowboys have made this mistake too many times recently and they have put themselves in trouble with the salary cap because of it. The smart teams invest good money in young, core players who they plan to build around and the Cowboys have those players.
Dallas is not in a position with the salary cap and as good as I think Spencer is the Cowboys should use any future money on their young building blocks like Sean Lee, Dez Bryant, Tyron Smith, DeMarco Murray and Bruce Carter. All of these players should be in the Cowboys plans because they represent the future and that's where Dallas should invest their money.
It's not that I don't believe in Anthony Spencer, it's just that his age and the Cowboys future is best served by getting one more great season out of Spencer and then letting him go. Spencer's a very good football player who hasn't gotten his due during his career and it's a shame he's getting it now that he's close to leaving the Cowboys.
The 2013 NFL season should be Anthony Spencer's last with the Dallas Cowboys.