It's finally over. After weeks of agonizing and arguing, the Dallas Cowboys have put a franchise tag on Anthony Spencer.
I feel almost like chains have been struck from my limbs. The Spencer decision was a huge roadblock. No progress could be achieved until it was gone. This may be one of those situations where making the best decision was less important than just making some decision. Now the team, and all of us would-be GMs out here, can move forward and address the other issues of Free Agency.
One question that still remains is what the actual salary cap is going to be. But that is out of the Cowboys' hands, so we might as well leave worrying about that up to the Joneses.
What has been repeatedly stated is that Dallas has the flexibility to get the money necessary to sign the players it needs. While that may be a bit of an overstatement, given the many and varied issues that the team needs to address, we can assume, I think, that the team will be able to make a few key moves, and then use any remaining cap space that it has to possibly make some low cost acquisitions.
Brainstorming where to go after the jump.
Right now I see there are three primary decisions that need to be made. And figuring them out ain't rocket science, folks, since we've talked about all of them, but I thought a bit of a reminder is in order.
Resolve the situation with Laurent Robinson. If the logic with Anthony Spencer was that it was too risky to give up on a known quantity that was, after all, providing some very valuable production, then this argument is doubly valid for Robinson, in that both he and the team should have a hard time figuring out a better situation. While the wide receiver depth in free agency has contracted as some key franchise tags have been used to lock up players like Wes Welker and DeSean Jackson, I still think that staying in Dallas is the best deal for Robinson, and the fact that he only has had success when Tony Romo was throwing to him may give other teams a bit of hesitation before they try to outbid Dallas for his services.
If not, then the team needs to have a Plan B: Sign another receiver or go with what it has. I frankly think that if Laurent is lured away by some team with more salary cap room than good sense, the team needs to have some patience and see just what it has with players like Raymond Radway, Dwayne Harris and Andre Holmes. Besides, I think they have a better fall back in Jesse Holley than many realize. He is not all that fast, but he showed some notable dependability, and I think those glue-like hands may keep him around for a while. I would much prefer Robinson stay with the team, but not having him is not the end of the world.
Upgrade the cornerback situation. With Brent Grimes the only primo cornerback getting franchised, names like Brandon Carr and Cortland Finnegan are still in play. I hope Dallas is targeting one of them, or that another corner like Tracy Porter will still provide a decent upgrade. The important thing is to get this taken care of before the draft. I think going into the first round firmly committed to BPA is a key for Dallas' future, and having that starting cornerback question answered is just a form of insurance for that.
Decide the approach for the offensive line. The conventional wisdom is that the Cowboys are going to sign some help in free agency, either a center or a guard. I am not so sure. Recent information that the team has been working David Arkin exclusively at the center position since the 2011 season started may offer another choice. But the team has to have confidence that it can give Tony Romo better protection than he had last year before it goes into the draft. I am still a fan of David DeCastro, and he is my best case scenario for the first round, but I am not very confident he is going to be there when Dallas goes on the clock. Hopeful, but not confident. Here is where I think the team will go for a veteran center on a short term deal in free agency, and possibly for a reasonable contract, since so many of the available players are getting rather long in the tooth. As for a big name signing like guard Carl Nicks, this is not off the table, but would severely limit what else the team could do. However, if the CB situation can also be addressed, it would be a big step to getting this team back into contention. It might force the team to part ways with Laurent Robinson - or maybe there is enough financial magic to be worked to have it all.
Those are the three big questions. There are still a seemingly infinite set of other possibilities, and a lot of decisions still to come. The futures of players like Terence Newman, Bradie James and Keith Brooking still have to be decided, and those choices will then affect what can be done in free agency. There are also new possibilities opening up, such as the release of San Diego Chargers DE Luis Castillo. If, and that is a big if, his health is all right, he may be someone the team can get for not a lot to bring some pressure up the middle.
And there is still the Mario Williams question. If I am understanding things, the Cowboys could still work out a deal for Super Mario, as long as they have not signed everything with Spencer, and then they could get out of everything and release Anthony outright. This is time-limited, but since the contract negotiations on franchised players have gone on for months in the past, that time limit is not all that tight.
There are certainly many possible pitfalls ahead. But at last we can quit obsessing about Anthony Spencer. It is freeing, in a way.