As the Dallas Cowboys try to figure out how to make needed improvements to their defense, one question that just seems to keep getting more important is what to do about OLB Anthony Spencer. While many argue that he is just not giving the team what it needs, others point out that he is quite capable at what he is asked to do and the odds are that whoever replaces him if he leaves will actually be a step backwards. But with free agency rushing towards us like a tree sloth on downers, the chances are growing that his services may be bid up, to the point that the team could have to hang a franchise tag on him to retain his services, using up more valuable cap money than most of us would like.
The main argument against Spencer has been his lack of success getting to the quarterback. Generally, the belief is that he is not helping his teammate across the way, All Pro DeMarcus Ware, enough. The counter argument is that he has a different role in the defense, and if you take a more analytical view at the big picture, you would see that.
But if the issue is how much Anthony is helping DWare, wouldn't it be nice to find out what DWare thinks?
If you haven't guessed by now, he discussed just that, as reported by Brandon George of the Dallas Morning News.
What he said, and a few other things, after the jump.
Cowboys outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware said he wants to see Spencer return to the Cowboys.
"I think it's really important to get Spencer back because if you look back, he's not a guy who is probably going to have 40 or 50 sacks, but at the end of the day, he's a run-stopper," Ware said Saturday night while representing Red Bull at the Supercross event at Cowboys Stadium. "He drops a lot and you see a lot of pass breakups and a lot of tackles for loss, so he's making a lot of plays for us but they are subtle plays. He's a solid player we need to keep."
While some might want to interpret that as just a guy standing by his teammate, I think DeMarcus tends to be rather honest and straightforward in his opinions. He didn't seem to have much problem voicing his disagreement with Jason Hatcher on the leadership issue. No, I think this is really how he feels, just stated in a measured way that seems typical for him.
And I also think, since the Spencer and Hatcher remarks came from the same interview, that maybe Ware was also trying to step up his role a tad. One of the reasons I have seen given for Anthony's desire to test the market is the lack of respect he gets in the media and from the fans in Dallas. Let's face it, he could use a lot that is said right here at BTB as motivation to get the bleep outta Dodge. DeMarcus may well have seen this as an opportunity to try and counter some of that, and also to step up and do a little of what Jason Hatcher seemed to say did not happen. Taking care of your teammates is certainly one part of the whole leadership package.
I have not always been rock solid in my support of Anthony myself, but I try to study what is said by people I feel have some measure of credibility. In football, I have more respect for the opinion of most coaches and players than I do for what many reporters and bloggers say. Rob Ryan has defended Anthony before, and I still think he is going to turn out to be a pretty good Defensive Coordinator. DWare, though, just demands respect. He not only is one of the best players in the NFL, he also comes across as very intelligent. He has that funny thing called gravitas. You believe what he says because it is him saying it.
A few days ago, I was thinking that Spencer was worth a reasonable contract, but not the $8.8 million a franchise tag would cost. Plus, with an estimated $711 million in total NFL cap space for the teams to spend, according to John Clayton at ESPN.com, there is a lot of money out there, and that $20 million or so Dallas will have suddenly doesn't look so impressive.
That just puts a little more pressure on the March 5th deadline to make the franchise tag decision. While the cost may be higher than we would like, not using it could result in having Spencer walk, and leave the team worse off than it was. And the cap cost is not fixed, since it is based on a one-year deal. The team may be able go in and negotiate a longer term deal that spreads that cap hit out a bit. Anthony only made $1,001,000 last year, just to provide a little reference. The team needs to get this right.
It is a hard call. It really comes down to what and who you believe. Is he really just Almost Anthony? Or is he what DWare says, a player the team needs to keep? I'm not sure, but I would not argue very much with Mr. Ware, either.