|Cowboys linebacker Anthony Spencer is one of the top defensive ends in the 2013 free-agent class. (USATSI)|
Faced with one of the most perplexing salary-cap dilemmas in the league, the Dallas Cowboys' decision on whether to offer Tony Romo a contract extension in the coming weeks will likely impact their negotiations with several of their own free agents.
The most prominent of which is hybrid defensive end/outside linebacker Anthony Spencer, a six-year veteran, who could be looking to cash in on a 2012 trip to the Pro Bowl, the first of his career. At the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, Cowboys coach Jason Garrett raved about Spencer's potential in new defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin's scheme if the former Purdue standout returns to Dallas.
Under Kiffin, the Cowboys will switch from a 3-4 to a 4-3 alignment, the same system Spencer flourished in with the Boilermakers. Spencer's transition could be eased by the fact that the Cowboys often changed to a four-down alignment on third downs in recent seasons.
“When Spence was coming out of Purdue, he was a 4-3 defensive end. We converted him to an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense,” Garrett said. “I think what's natural to him is what he did growing up. He certainly has a comfort level from his past and he certainly has done a lot of it here in the National Football League.”
The Cowboys were reportedly scheduled to meet with Spencer's agent in Indianapolis, according to ESPNDallas.com. Spencer is unlikely to receive the franchise tag for the second consecutive year. If the Cowboys used the designation on Spencer, he would receive a one-year deal for roughly $10.6 million.
Spencer is widely considered one of the top defensive ends in the 2013 free-agent class, along with Michael Johnson of the Bengals and Cliff Avril of the Lions. In 2012, Spencer finished with a career-high 11.0 sacks matching his total from the previous two seasons combined.
“He is just a (darn) good football player and he showed that over the past four or five years,” Garrett said. “He can do a lot of different things. We are certainly confident he can play a lot of different schemes really, really well.”
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