The Dallas Cowboys have lost DeMarcus Ware and Jason Hatcher to teams willing to spend more money than the Cowboys. But there is still one other defensive lineman that may be in play for Dallas to retain. After visits with the Washington Redskins and New York Giants, Anthony Spencer is still unemployed.
Spencer is coming off microfracture knee surgery after missing all but a handful of plays in the 2013 season. It is certain that his recovery is the big question in whether he will get a contract this year. If there are no outside offers that come, then he may become another low-cost signing for Dallas. It could be in line with the Brandon Weeden contract, a veteran minimum, which would be $855,000 in his case. That is only about 10% of what Dallas paid him to sit out the previous year. The team might go a little higher, based on what really happened with the Giants and the Redskins. They might have put offers on the table that were just too low, but not so high that bettering them would be any strain on Dallas' cap. Given the question of whether that knee would hold up, always a big if with microfractures, he should get little or no guaranteed money. It would be no real risk, low cost to the team, and give him a chance to prove he deserves another contract from someone next year. The chances of him getting a one year "prove-it" deal with the Cowboys probably went up since he didn't wind up signing with either the Giants or Redskins.
There is no guarantee that he would be any more help to the team than he was last year. But it is not a bad risk to take. Nick Eatman wrote about the intangibles that Spencer would bring to the team, especially given the losses up front.
There's just something about the mindset of having familiar faces, people you can count on. Ware was that guy forever. Hatcher somewhat became that player the last few years, especially last season. For the secondary, the linebackers, having guys up front you know will be able to make plays, especially in the clutch, is crucial.
The last time Spencer was healthy, he made more clutch plays than any defensive player we've seen in several years, and that includes Ware. Spencer was the guy toward the end of 2012 making fourth-quarter sacks and forcing fumbles and recovering them.
If the Cowboys don't sign Spencer, it would almost certainly come from the familiarity they have with his rehabilitation. If they do, then they likely have some faith in his ability to get back on the field. It does not have to be a certainty, if they do the right kind of deal. It would have to be a contract that would not incur any costs to the team if he winds up a cut before the season starts. But the possible payoff could be huge.