Cowboys Free Agents 2013: Anthony Spencer Return Unlikely?

Tom Pennington

The Dallas Cowboys have a big decision to make about free agent Anthony Spencer. Comments this weekend from Jerry Jones seemed to cast some doubt on his return.

Anthony Spencer sure picked a good time to have a career year. Heading into free agency for 2013, he set himself up for a nice payday. The problem for the Cowboys, and the fanbase, is that payday could happen courtesy of another team.

Jerry Jones spoke at length about the team's offseason maneuvers, including dishing on their ability to retain Spencer. If you take Jones' words at face-value, it appears the odds of Spencer suiting up in a Cowboys uniform for 2013 are definitely in doubt.

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said there is a "reasonable" way for the team to retain free agent linebacker Anthony Spencer and prevent him from exploring the open market. But Jones also explained "you can’t have it all."

"We are going to have to pick our spots to spend this money," he added. The contract figure Jones has in mind for Spencer "is much less than he is going to take."

Now, that's pretty explicit. It could be Jones is pursuing a negotiating ploy with his comments, but that generally isn't his style. He's among the most blunt GM's when it comes to talking to the media. In the end, it's possible Stephen Jones could work some magic and Spencer could end up a Cowboy again, but a betting man would be wise not to take those odds.

Consider - Dallas tagged Spencer last year to the tune of $8.8 million. This year, the price is going to be $10.6 million for another tag. Reports have surfaced that Spencer would like to see something in the $12 million-range annually. That's probably just a negotiating tactic by his agent, but surely, after the year he had, the asking price is going to be high. Plenty of 3-4 teams will be very interested in obtaining Spencer's services, and other 4-3 teams could be interested as well. A bidding war could easily break out.

Dallas isn't in a position to engage in that kind of war. And they know it. The words of Jerry Jones:

"With what he’s likely to make," Jones said, "we’re going to be able to take that and really help our team either with him or maybe with a couple of other players."

Spencer could end up taking the money and moving on. Unless the Cowboys decide to drop the tag on him again. A move that would but them in a real bind in terms of bringing in other free agents. And they would probably have an unhappy Anthony Spencer on their hands. After the year he had, he's ready to cash in.

I will add this caveat, though. Anytime the Cowboys have really wanted a free agent, they've made it happen. Somehow, Stephen Jones makes the money work. In addition to re-working Tony Romo's contract, there could be other's in line either for a re-structuring, or being forced to take a pay cut. So if the Cowboys want Spencer bad enough, they could make it happen. Even Silva over at Rotoworld thinks it will happen, without using the franchise tag.

11. Outside linebacker Anthony Spencer -- Sporting the Cowboys' franchise tag in 2012, Spencer delivered career bests in tackles (95) and sacks (11). Despite changing its defensive alignment from 3-4 to 4-3, Dallas has made no bones about wanting Spencer back. They could clear enough space to make it happen by signing Tony Romo to an extension, which they already plan to do.

Free Agent Forecast: Cowboys on a four-year, $44 million contract.

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