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Anthony Spencer: The Cowboys' One-Year-Deal Specialist

The Dallas Cowboys welcome Anthony Spencer back into the fold...maybe.

Ronald Martinez

Another season, another one-year deal for defensive end Anthony Spencer with the Dallas Cowboys. The past two years, the deals were high-valued franchise-tag tenders signed by the first-round pick out of Purdue; this year's version is a bit different. The Cowboys have brought Spencer back on terms totally favorable to the team, not the player. This has been the Cowboys method of operation this offseason, even with Henry Melton. Spencer's deal, in basic terms, doesn't pay him anything if he doesn't make the 53-man roster. It also only pays incentives if he plays in games and even more if he makes plays like sacks in games. Essentially it's a pay-for-performance deal.

According to a source, Spencer’s one-year deal contains no signing bonus but can be worth up to $3.5 million. He has a base salary of $1.25 million and up to $750,000 in roster bonus money based on him being on the active roster in each game. Spencer has additional incentives totaling 1.5 million in sacks and playing time.

I imagine this is the type of deal the Cowboys have been dangling in front of Spencer this offseason. After Spencer visited the Giants and Redskins and didn't receive an offer, he decided to take what he could. With the draft coming, the Cowboys could have taken some defensive ends and ultimately decided not to continue offering Spencer a deal. So Spencer went ahead an grabbed what he could.

But this move by the Cowboys in no way changes their draft strategy. At this point, based on what they've said about Spencer, and based on the construct of his deal, they aren't really sure he'll play this season. They'll continue to draft the same way they had planned because they can drop Spencer at any time without financial ramifications. The Cowboys are saying: if he plays, great, we'd love to have him back. If he doesn't play, no skin off our backs.

Poor Anthony Spencer. For years we called him Almost Anthony because he almost made the big plays. Now we can call him Almost Anthony because for two years (2012, 2013) he almost got the big contract he wanted.

Back in the 2012 offseason, Dallas was unsure about keeping him long-term. Spencer was coming off a six-sack season, the best in his career at that time, which wasn't exactly the return the Cowboys envisioned for a first-round pick. Spencer was good against the run, but his pass rush was a case of "Almost Anthony". In the end, the Cowboys franchise-tagged him for 2012. That deal was for $8.8 million. Not a bad payday, but not the long-term security he craved.

Then the 2012 season happened. Spencer finally broke out with 11 sacks and a trip to the Pro Bowl. The Cowboys hand was now forced somewhat, they certainly didn't want to see him leave in free agency. But they also had to recognize that this could be a one-season thing, he could go back to averaging five to six sacks a season. He was almost there but not quite. So the Cowboys played the one card they had left, they franchised him again. After negotiations on a long-term deal finally collapsed, Spencer took the franchise tag. This time, he pulled in $10.6 million. A nice sum, but not the long-term deal he wanted coming off his career year.

Then the knee injury threw everything into chaos. Essentially he didn't have a 2013 season and was cast adrift on the free-agent market. The Cowboys finally reeled him back in, but at a pittance of what he was once making. Spencer will now try to turn his third one-year deal with the Cowboys into something long-term.

Good luck Anthony, all Cowboys fans are pulling for you.

What's you take on Spencer in 2014? Hit up the poll.

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