A lot of people have been writing, even before Monte Kiffin was hired as DC, that Dallas would let Anthony Spencer walk. Most of this was money related, given the cap issues Dallas faces, and the age of Spencer, who may be worth a big contract in the first couple of years, but not necessarily in the later years. Think of Jay Ratliff, for example. This mantra seemed to expand after Kiffin was hired. I guess on the theory that a 4-3 defense needs bigger DEs.
I am not convinced by either argument.
I think the cap issue is problematic. But I also think it is solvable by stretching Spencer's new contract out longer, and expecting to take a hit by cutting Spencer 4-5 years from now.
What I really want to quickly address is that why I think Anthony Spencer might do quite well as a full-time DE.
Look no further than Indy's defense under Tony Dungy, which used Robert Mathis as LDE. In 2005, Indy had the #2 scoring D in the NFL. In 2007, Indy had the #1 scoring D in the NFL.
Robert Mathis is both shorter and lighter than Anthony Spencer. In 2005, he was not the full-time LDE -- Raheem Brock was the starter. But he played enough to get 11.5 sacks in only 13 games. On the opposite side was Dwight Freeney, who is shorter but heavier than Demarcus Ware.
By 2007, Mathis was the starting LDE. Brock had moved inside to DT. Indy's D was #1 in scoring, 3rd in yards.
This shows me that a Tampa 2 D can excel with two relatively light but quick DEs.
I would love to see what Monte Kiffin can do with two highly moblie, intelligent DEs. Especially with both of them rushing the passer whenever they are in the game.
In 2012, Spencer led the defense with 38 splash plays, according to Bob Sturm's count. That's more than 2.7 splash plays per game (Spencer missed 2 games). Ware had 30. Hatcher had 16.5. His late-game sacks were often game winners or game savers. Think of the Cincy or Pittsburgh games, for example. Spencer also had more sacks per rush than Demarcus Ware in 2012, though this was likely due to Ware's injuries. (Spencer rushed 700 times, and got 11 sacks, Ware rushed 830 times and got 11.5).
Rumors are that Dallas is trying to work out a deal with Spencer now. Count me among those who will be very pleased if they get it done.