My take on retaining Anthony Spencer

Outside of extending Tony Romo's contract (which they MUST do from a cap perspective), it seems the biggest priority for the Cowboys front office, and coaches is to attempt to retain Anthony Spencer who projects to play the SDE or Closed End in the Kiffin/Marinelli defense. Although I have had questions regarding Spencer's size, (especially when in the "Under" front) this defense's emphasis on getting quick pressure using the front 4, will make bringing Spencer back a priority. .

The Cowboys' cap situation has been almost as heavily discussed as the question of who will be their primary play-caller and most people are aware that any contracts the Cowboys sign players to this year will have to be very cap friendly, and that got me thinking. How can the Cowboys get Spencer back without crippling themselves?.

Before we get into the specifics of my proposed situation, we have to remember a couple of things about the NFL & the Cowboys in particular.

1) Teams face 2 areas of concern when signing new contracts. First is the Cap, the second is Cash. Many teams have tons of cap room, but don't have the out of season revenue available to pay out tons of cash in the form of signing bonuses. Others (like the Cowboys) have tons of revenue available and cash to spend, but don't have much cap room.

2) Base salary and signing bonuses are treated differently in cap calculations. Salary counts exclusively in the year in which that salary is paid, while a signing bonus is prorated out over the life of the contract. For example a $6 million signing bonus on a 3 year contract would count $2 million on each of the 3 years of the deal.

Now lets move to the Spencer situation specifically.

My strategy is to apply the franchise tag to Spencer for the 2nd year in a row. This would essentially give him a 1 year deal with a fully guaranteed salary between $10.5 and $11 million. This is a positive and a negative for the player, who gets guaranteed money based on the top 5 players at his position or 120% of his previous years salary, whichever is greater. However, a player is not guaranteed future years, if they were to be injured or play poorly in that season it could hurt their value on the free agent market the next season.

I would tag Spencer with the entent of giving him a longer term extension. However, I would be prepared to let him play under the tag (even with the large cap #) if need be. The contract I would offer him would be the following.

5 years, $52 Million, a $15 million signing bonus, and a total of $22 million fully guaranteed in the first 2 years. The chart below represents the structure of the contract.

 photo SpencerChart_zps85946d6a.jpg

So this contract gives him an average pay of $10.4 million/year, with a cap number of only $5.4 million. This structure allows the Cowboys to take advantage of their cash flexibility while working around their cap inflexibility. This deal guarantees the yr 1 and yr 2 Base salaries on top of the $15 million bonus doing this essentially creates a 3 year deal for $29.8 million. Giving the team the ability to let him go at the age of 32 without taking a ton of cap risk.

I would combine the numbers of this deal with the $8.8 million to tell Spencer that essentially he's signing a 6 yr $60.8 million deal. With the potential for injury out there, and the ability to more than double the amount of money he's guaranteed over the tag amount, I think he'd be likely to sign it.

So tell me BTB, what do you think of this deals structure for Spencer?

Another user-created commentary provided by a BTB reader.

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