From 2008-2012, Anthony Spencer was a top-11 3-4 outside linebacker on Pro Football Focus in all 5 seasons, including 4 as an every down starter and topping at #1 overall in 2012. As a result, he was franchise tagged by the Cowboys twice, but he played just 38 snaps on his 2nd franchise tag in 2013, missing most of the season with a knee injury. Between the knee injury and the fact that he’s going into his age 30 season, he was met with a cold market this off-season, remaining unsigned until late April and settling for 2 million on a one year prove it deal from the Cowboys.
That deal could end up being a complete steal for the Cowboys. Spencer can only make up to 3.5 million through incentives, 750K of that 2 million is in per game roster bonuses, and none of it is signing bonus, so none of his contract is guaranteed. Spencer has never played in a 4-3 in the NFL before, with the exception of those 38 snaps last season, but presumably, if he’s healthy, he can be an above average starter at the 4-3 defensive end position in rotation with George Selvie and a rookie.
The Cowboys are in desperate need of defensive line help, after losing both Jason Hatcher and DeMarcus Ware this off-season, and Spencer can provide that in a big way if he’s right. He’ll be motivated to prove himself ahead of free agency next off-season so he can finally get that long-term deal. Between the contract year of his rookie deal, two franchise tags, and this one year deal, Spencer will be paying in 4 straight contract years. We’ve seen him do some of his best work in contract years.