My feeling is that if the situations with Romo and Spencer could have been resolved easily, they would have been resolved a few days ago. Everyone is playing hardball, and as fans we may need to prepare ourselves to face this uncertainty through at least the middle of the regular season. I believe the tension between the parties is because the interests of the franchise and these players aren’t closely aligned anymore and there is no reason for them to align soon.
The Romo Situation
Romo is 33 years old and while he still has some very good years ahead of him, he is likely to hit a wall in 3-4 years. His body has taken way too much abuse lately, and even though he's never relied on sheer physical ability, I think his games played per season could drop dramatically any year now. His agents know that there is demand for Romo and will probably want a deal that is at least 5 years. I believe that there are teams out there that would sign Romo to almost any deal that he wants. Teams with a better cap situation, teams that think he will fill seats and sell jerseys, teams that might be in better position to contend with a quality QB.
The Cowboys on the other hand, need to keep adding pieces to the puzzle. My honest evaluation of the Cowboys is that it will take at least a couple more seasons of successful drafts to become championship contenders. Therefore the window to win it all with Romo is almost closed. I hate to say it, because I’ve always liked Romo, but given the average decline of QB’s, the current state of our Offensive line, and the aging stars on our Defensive line, the Cowboys can’t afford to go “all in” on Romo anymore.
Think about that for a bit. Yes, Romo is a starter with proven ability but he’s going to have a very high price with a potential for a very negative cap outlook in the future, and right now, I think the Cowboys should be thinking about the future. No, I don’t mean the dreaded r-word, just cautious and prudent cap management and an eye towards 2-3 years from now. If Romo was under 30, I would just say “suck it up and pay what the market bears, because good QB’s are hard to find”, but the situation is different now and he is becoming riskier to our cap situation.
The Spencer Situation
Spencer has been good, but not consistently good. He’s done enough that someone will take a chance on him with a high priced deal, but it’s going to be a somewhat risky move. I also think that due to the age of Demarcus Ware and Jay Ratliff, we need all of the quality defensive linemen we can get. While I hate the impact on our cap this year, I think biting the bullet right now is probably the best thing for this franchise. Sure the team would love to free up cap space, but not at a deal that most agents would demand. Spencer’s interests are not the same as the team’s, and that’s why there is no deal yet.
What to expect
I believe that we will not get a deal with Spencer until
the middle of after the 2013 season (Edit:mid-season deals are not an option with franchised players). There is plenty of precedent for big deals in mid-season from Jerry and if he continues to play well that might be enough of a body of evidence to decide that Spencer is no longer “Almost” Anthony. Given the age of Demarcus Ware, the Cowboys would be excited if they can nail down someone who can bring pressure on the QB.
Here comes the hard part. I think we are going to franchise Romo next year and even possibly the year after that. The funny thing is, my understanding is that a franchised Romo would be easier on our cap than it is this year. If we see ourselves in a position to contend within those 2 years, and Romo does not show signs of declining, then we will sign him to another long-term deal. However, if those stars do not align, Romo may very well finish out his days with another team. :(
What I'd like to see
I know most will think I'm crazy, but I would fully support the franchise if they could pull off another Herschel Walker style trade for Tony Romo. I recognize that Romo is currently our best shot at a title, and these Cowboys aren't as bad as the '89 team, but I don't think our team is going to be ready during Romo's prime. As a fan I will hope for a championship every year, but after two 8-8 years, I have to accept that for whatever reasons, the Cowboys are pretty much an average team. I'd hate to see Tony go, I really have loved him as our QB, but I'd be excited about a fresh start as well.
I would also support a trade for Anthony Spencer, just because of our cap situation. But given the state of our defensive line and Anthony's age, I think we should re-sign him with a successful '13 campaign.
It looks like there is egg on my face as Spencer is apparently in talks with the Cowboys. It looks like either the Cowboys are cracking or Spencer's agent decided the free agent market wasn't as juicy as he thought.