The Anthony Spencer Scenario


No player on the Cowboys roster is being talked about more than free agent to be, Anthony Spencer. My own personal opinions and views on Anthony Spencer have not been positive, but I will truly attempt to stay unbiased with my opinion on Spencer. I will also attempt to stay professional in this article and give Spencer a fair shake.

This all dates back to the 2007 NFL Draft and the method we took in acquiring Spencer on draft day. After moving out of the first round and picking up some extra draft picks, along with the Browns 2008 1st round pick, we traded our 2nd, 3rd and 5th round picks to the Eagles in order to move back into the first round at pick 26.

We gave up a lot of draft picks for ONE player and this ONE player was not a dynamic pass rusher worthy of those draft picks. I really don't have a problem with trading up for a player, but please make sure the player you are trading up for is a dynamic talent at his position.

Part of the reason the Cowboys drafted Spencer was due to his scouting reports coming out of Purdue. I decided to go back and do a Google search on "Anthony Spencer NFL Draft" and see what came up. I read over a lot of the scouting reports and draft grades Spencer received. After reading them I was blown away by the player they detailed, because the pro's that were listed were really awesome.

It's interesting reading the con's of his scouting reports, because in that aspect they were just about spot on.Looking at these scouting reports five years later, it is clear to me that the scouts overrated Spencer. The scouts were wrong about Spencer becoming a dynamic pass rusher and this led to the Cowboys overvaluing Spencer themselves on draft day.

The Cowboys also selected the wrong player. In my own personal opinion, Anthony Spencer was the wrong player selected by the Dallas Cowboys. I felt that Michigan's LaMarr Woodley would have been a better fit for the 3-4 defense we still run to this day.

Instead of drafting the more productive, but smaller Woodley, the Cowboys drafted the larger prospect, Anthony Spencer. This is where understimating a players size goes wrong and the Cowboys due have a fetish for large (6'3-6'5) outside linebackers. Yes, this can be considered hindsight looking at it this way now. But I wanted the Cowboys to draft Woodley back in 2007, not Spencer.

Let's compare Spencer to Woodley in college first and then move onto their pro production.

Anthony Spencer

  • 2006- 93 tackles, 10.5 sacks, 26.5 tackles for loss
  • 2005- 23 tackles, 3 sacks, 7.5 tackles for loss
  • 2004- 33 tackles, 7.5 sacks, 9.5 tackles for loss
  • 4.7 40 yard dash, 30 bench reps, 32 1/2 inch vertical, 9'04" broad jump, 4.43 20 yard shuttle, 7.14 cone drill
  • Now listed at 6'3 257 by the Dallas Cowboys

NFL Statistics

  • 2011- 66 tackles, 6 sacks, 4 forced fumbles
  • 2010- 63 tackles, 5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles
  • 2009- 67 tackles, 6 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 1 INT
  • 2008- 34 tackles, 1.5 sacks
  • 2007- 36 tackles, 3 sacks, 2 forced fumbles
  • 21.5 career sacks

LaMarr Woodley

  • 2006- Consensus All-American, 36 tackles, 12 sacks, 16.5 tackles for loss
  • 2005- 48 tackles, 7 sacks, 14 tackles for loss
  • 2004- 70 tackles, 4 sacks, 16 tackles for loss
  • 2003- 23 tackles, 2 sacks, 4 tackles for loss
  • 4.74 40 yard dash, 29 bench reps, 38 1/2 inch vertical, 9'9" broad jump, 4.42 20 yard shuttle
  • Now listed at 6'2 265 by the Pittsburgh Steelers

NFL Statistics

  • 2011- (10 games) 39 tackles, 9 sacks, 1 INT
  • 2010- 50 tackles, 10 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, 2 INT
  • 2009- 62 tackles, 13.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble
  • 2008- 60 tackles, 11.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 1 INT
  • 2007- 14 tackles, 4 sacks, 1 forced fumble
  • 48 career sacks

After drafting Spencer, I gave the Cowboys the benefit of the doubt and chalked it up as a major steal. I believed we finally landed DeMarcus Ware's partner for the next ten years and I thought we landed a dynamic pass rusher. I had no choice but to believe in Spencer back in 2007. It was Wade Phillips's first draft pick as head coach and I truly thought he had spotted his type of guy for his 3-4 defense.

Then I began to hear about the guy I wanted to draft that year, LaMarr Woodley and how his career was shaping up to be a real good one for the Steelers. Hindsight says that LaMarr Woodley was the player we should have taken. The Cowboys went against taking the smaller player and now that smaller player has 48 career sacks, while Spencer has 21.5 career sacks.

Spencer played a backup role and was very impressive as a rookie in 2007. In 2008 Spencer had sort of a down year in his sophomore season. It was only his first two years in Dallas, so I wanted to give him time before I declared he was a bust. So entering the 2009 season, I believed it would be Spencer's breakout campaign.

Spencer had a interesting season in 2009. By the middle of the year, I was really frustrated with him. Then the guy goes out there and really turns it on down the stretch. He displayed some of the stuff his scouting reports raved about and he was great against the run.

By the end of 2009, Spencer was on a lot of peoples radars. Sports Illustrated's Peter King declared that Spencer should have been an all pro at linebacker. I was feeling really good about Spencer heading into the 2010 season. Spencer, along with basically the entire defense, collapsed and fell apart. Wade Phillips got canned and Jason Garrett took over. After a disappointing 2010 campaign, once again I felt that next season would be Spencer's breakout year.

Spencer was heading into a contract year, which is usually the perfect time for a player wanting to cash in and step up his play significantly. Spencer started off the year hot with 4 sacks, but had no sacks the last four weeks of the season and totally disappeared in the biggest game of the season, week 17 with the playoffs on the line. Spencer finished with 6 sacks again and left a whole lot more to be desired as a pass rusher.

Spencer is an average football player, and trust me I want to say he just sucks. But he doesn't just suck, he can give you some amazing moments as a football player. The blocked kick this year showed his athleticism, but then he can disappear for weeks at a time. The major issue I have with Spencer is consistency, he is very inconsistent and doesn't show up in big games. His sack on Rex Grossman in the first Redskins game this season might have been one of his biggest plays in his career. There are just not enough of those plays over his career in Dallas to make me believe he will contribute at a high level.

I am not expecting DeMarcus Ware 2.0 on the other side, but I do expect that player to be consistent and a good pass rusher. I don't care how many tackles you rack up and how good you are against the run, if you cannot rush the passer well this defense will fail.

Now it is 2012 and March 3rd is the beginning of the NFL free agency period. The big news out of Valley Ranch is the supposed possibility of franchising Spencer for 8.5 million dollars. If the Cowboys franchise Spencer, basically all of their free agency money will be spent on one under performing player. Anthony Spencer is not worth 8.5 million dollars.

If the Cowboys tag Spencer, you kiss all of that cap money goodbye. That means no Carl Nicks, no Mario Williams, no Cortland Finnegan and no Chris Meyers. It will take up almost all of our money when they tag him and it will ruin our off season.

If they wanted to give him a one year deal for like 4-5 million dollars, that would be alright with me. But do not dedicate most of your cap space to a player who has yet to play like a 8.5 million dollar player. The realist in me says this is all a smokescreen, but there is always Jerry Jones cutting the checks. I have no idea what he is up to with this Spencer situation. I have no idea where he stands on the situation and quite frankly, that scares me to death.

The realist in me says that this is all Jerry Jones being clever. If they wanted Spencer back so desperately, why didn't they extend his contract when they had the cap space earlier in the season? Instead, Jerry gave new deals to Orlando Scandrick and Gerald Sensabaugh. If Jerry really wanted Spencer back, why didn't he just get it done before?

Jerry Jones can do anything he wants and he will decide if Spencer is brought back. Rob Ryan will have a big say in the ordeal as well and I wonder what Ryan really thinks about Spencer. He hyped him up all season long like Spencer had a title fight in Vegas.

People say not resigning Spencer would be a mistake and create an unnecessary hole on the roster. I would look at drafting a pass rusher in the draft if we decided to not resign Spencer. You better draft one in the first two rounds because that is where most of the good ones will go. Many say that Courntey Upshaw is another Spencer and they do have very similar games. I expect that Upshaw will ultimately be the better NFL player and has a higher ceiling. That is why I would draft Upshaw, because I believe he will develop into a better player than Spencer.

At the end of the day folks, I want to move on from Anthony Spencer. He has not developed since we drafted him in 2007. He has never had more than 6 sacks in a NFL season. He has not lived up to his draft day trade and selection. Rob Ryan says you need the 3-4 outside linebackers to both generate pressure and a pass rush, if not this defense will fail. Spencer is not a good pass rusher, he is a very average one. Spencer has never had the speed to be a good 3-4 OLB.

Those are the facts and I am not just "hating" on Anthony Spencer here. I am just telling it how it is. Some think Spencer is going to just come out of nowhere and all of a sudden become this dynamic pass rusher. That is not going to happen. Some believe Spencer is soooooo good in the run game and that right there makes him valuable. Being good against the run is important, it's important to set the edge. But a lot of guys can do that and I could care less if I had a dynamic pass rusher that was average against the run.

We are about a month away from seeing what happens with Anthony Spencer. I moved on from him right after the Giants game, so I have prepared myself to move on months ago. Will the Cowboys do the same? This should be an interesting off season.

Another user-created commentary provided by a BTB reader.

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