NFL teams have until 4:00 p.m. ET tomorrow to use the franchise tag on their impending free agents to secure their services for an extra year. For the Cowboys, that means finalizing a decision on whether or not to use the franchise tag on Anthony Spencer for a second year. Traditionally, the Cowboys have been reluctant to use the franchise tag. Since 1993, the Cowboys have used the franchise tag only three times, one of the lowest values in the league. Only three teams have used the tag less often than the Cowboys.
The Cowboys used the franchise tag on left tackle Flozell Adams in 2002 and on safety Ken Hamlin in 2008 before tagging Anthony Spencer last year as well. But in contrast to Spencer, Hamlin and Adams worked out long-term deals with the Cowboys while under the tag.
Anthony Spencer is coming off a big but still underrated season. As they did with Adams and Hamlin before, the Cowboys could tag Spencer (to the tune of a cool $10.6 million) to buy themselves more time to work on a long-term extension. However, if the Cowboys don't franchise Spencer and the two sides don't agree an a contract extension by 4:00 p.m. ET tomorrow, Spencer officially hits free agency on March 12 and will probably go to the highest bidder.
As a free agent, Spencer will likely sign a contract that will pay him something very close to the franchise tag. This is pure speculation of course, but a four-year, $44 million contract sounds about right for Spencer. In that case, tagging him might be a good choice for the Cowboys, as a tag of $10.6 million would secure Spencer's services for about the same price as a contract extension - but without the downside of extending an already 29-year old pass rusher for four more years. Then again, $10.6 million is a big cap hit to swallow for a team that doesn't have all that much cap space to begin with.
We'll know more by this time tomorrow. Until then, we can do what we do best here - speculate on what the Cowboys could, should or will do. So what's your take: Should the Cowboys tag Spencer for one more year, tag him and extend him, or should they let him go (and hope to get a fourth-round compensatory pick in 2014 in return)?
Need a refresher on what Spencer is worth to Dallas on the field? Check out KD's video review of his play over the last few seasons.