Anthony Spencer's contract is up, and now the Cowboys have to decide if they want to retain him. Reports out there are saying Kiffin is a fan of Spencer's ability to play the strong side in his 4-3 defense, and Cowboys are attempting to get a fair deal done with Spencer. But, the Cowboys are reportedly $20 million over the cap for next year, so there is a good chance Spencer will not able to be retained because of the numbers.
In the event the Cowboys are unable to resign Spencer, there will be a huge hole at strong side defensive end. With the 18th pick in the draft, Sam Montgomery might be the Cowboys guy.
His freshman year at LSU was one he would probably like to forget. Montgomery managed to start 5 games and collecting 2 sacks before going down to a bad knee injury against Tennessee. He really opened eyes his sophomore year at LSU. He finished the year with 49 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss, 9 sacks, and 1 forced fumble, while starting 11 out of 14 games and being named a 1st Team All-American.
Coming into his junior at LSU, people expected the same amount of production, if not more. Montgomery was able to achieve that, for the most part. He finished with a very solid 38 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, and 8 sacks, earning him 3rd Team-All American honors.
Montgomery is a consistent player with his high-motor and high-effort. His sacks did not come in bunches, but spread out over the course of the year. Montgomery was able to pick an easy 2 sacks against Washington and Auburn. Once LSU got to the meat of their schedule, things were a bit different. Against Florida, Montgomery was a non-factor, collecting only 3 tackles and 0 sacks. Against the elite Luke Joeckel, Montgomery was shut down and only came up with 2 total tackles from the game.
It is very difficult to keep someone with Montgomery's motor down for long. He was able to bounce back from the Florida game the next week with a 2 sack performance against South Carolina. After being shut down vs Luke Joeckel, Montgomery played a fantastic game against rival Alabama and their elite offensive line. Able to grab 3 tackles and a sack against Alabama, while containing the run game.
Sam Montgomery vs Alabama 2012 (via JPDraftJedi)
Sam Montgomery is a great athlete, at 6-5 and 260 lbs, Montgomery has the ability to play as a 3-4 outside linebacker or a 4-3 defensive end. He very strong at the point of attack and plays with good speed on the edge. His 6'5 frame will allow him to add more weight at the next level.
Right now, Montgomery is still a bit raw. He wins a lot of his battles with pure athleticism, using his speed to get around the edge and pressure the quarterback, but this also hurt him against athletic tackles that were able to get their hands on him. Getting more technical and adding more pass rushing moves such as the dip and rip will allow him to make more plays on the edge.
One of the biggest flaws for Montgomery is his slow get off, teammates Bennie Logan and Barkevious Mingo often beat him off the line. He consistently plays with good pad level, and often chases runs from the backside. On the edge, he does a good job of getting low and getting under offensive linemen, but could use his hands a bit more to help him get off blocks more.
Right now, Montgomery is considered a 1st round talent and is expected to have a big combine in February. While raw, his pure athleticism, especially his long arms, could appeal to a ton of coaches. Montgomery had a good, not great season, and could go anywhere from anywhere from 10th to 20th overall. This might allow him to drop to the Cowboys at the 18th pick and giving them the option to pick him.
If Dallas decides to take him, they would need to give him a year before they expect anything special from him. Any team that picks him will have a bit of a project, but with his fantastic skill set and measurables, the payoff could be big.