Give us Whitney Mercilus. 6'4 265. Long arms. Explosive first step. 16 sacks 9ff. Badass name.
Cowboys going to be "active" in free agency, surely more than last season. I've read the Cowboys associated with Carl Nicks, pro-bowl OG from the Saints and played under Callahan at NU; Brandon Carr, CB from KC; Standford Routt, CB cut from the Raiders. Routt will be 29 and Carr will be 25 by next season. I've also read that Dallas will have anywhere from 16-22 million in free agency after Newman is cut....Some of that money will go towards re-signing some of our own though....
They are thinking of franchising Anthony Spencer.
What's wrong with victor butler? We can do better than spencer
If the Cowboys can't find a guy as good as Spencer for under $8 million a year, then they aren't looking very hard.
I was encouraged by the Cowboys last off season. Quite economical and logical. They had one of their better drafts. If they were to franchise Spencer it would just tell me that last offseason was a fluke and they haven't learned anything from their past mistakes.
For me, the breakover was when Jerry said he was not hiring a general manager. His reasoning was that even if he hired one, he'd still make the decisions, so it would just be another layer of management. That tells me as long as Jerry's above ground, he's making personnel decisions, and he cannot identify talent. He also pays average players star salaries and ignores non-glamour positions.
Bob Sturm discussed this very issue on his blog. I thought he made a good case for keeping Spencer, especially in light of our other needs.
Bob's BlogThink Like a General Manager
Today, we need distinguish the difference between fantasy football and real football from the standpoint of a general manager of one of 32 franchises. I believe a lot of the rhetoric that surrounds the offseason plans of the Dallas Cowboys is generally fun for fans and media to throw onto a wall and see if it sticks, but not practical to a real team that has to have every position fortified when the season begins or it will get a 5 month reminder that they made a really poor decision.
We can sit at a table over a beverage and a pizza and say that Terence Newman must go and that we don't care who replaces him in February. But, when the Cowboys have lost 3 out of 4 next September because they have no cornerbacks, we might care who is replacing him, right?
For instance, somewhere inside Valley Ranch, there were discussions last spring and summertime about the performance and future of long-time Dallas Cowboys center Andre Gurode. His play had been dropping from one of the better centers in the sport down to a guy who was sliding by on reputation. Poor shotgun snaps and occasionally being beaten on pass protection were reasonable critiques about a player that was in decline and commanded a pretty salty salary.
So, the decision was made that along with Marc Colombo and Leonard Davis, the Cowboys were going to jump into the deep end of the pool without a life preserver and release Gurode at the end of training camp. Surely, they thought that he could be replaced by "anyone" and that he was a guy that we will not miss.
In 2011, Gurode was picked up by Baltimore and did not play well. His decline did continue and he spent the end of the season watching the Ravens offense play from his spot in the sideline. Their evaluation of the direction of his career was not off at all. What was off was the players they had behind him who would snap the ball and center the Cowboys OL for 1,000+ plays in 2011. Phil Costa represented the "anyone" that they thought could replace Gurode, and they were badly mistaken. As declined as Gurode's play was in 2010, the drop off to Costa in 2011 was gigantic. Costa was over-matched in many games and made the middle of the Cowboys line a constant target for stunting and collapsing on run and pass plays alike.
The lesson learned there was simply this: If a player is only a "5 or 6" on the scale of 1-10, you can certainly get better if you replace him with an "8 or 9", but you will also really miss him if you replace him with a "2 or 3". In other words, you better have a plan in place when you want to get rid of one of your veterans, or you may find out that you actually could do worse than the guy you have at that position right now.
Which brings us to both the case of Newman (who I am certain will not be back) and the far more controversial discussion of what to do with Anthony Spencer.
I spent Saturday tweeting a bit about Spencer and here were some of my thoughts:
* I like Alabama's Courtney Upshaw to play OLB. However, he kinda reminds one of Anthony Spencer.
* And to be clear, I think Spencer is a good to pretty good LB and average pass rusher. Not bad, but not dynamite for sure.
* Look, we all want a bookend at OLB for Ware. Nobody is arguing that. But, you better have a plan for that spot, beyond "anybody".
I am certainly not sure that Twitter and 140 characters is the best way to discuss the play of a football player in proper detail, but I hope my point is clear from those tweets and this previous essay on Spencer; You better understand what he is and that what he is will not be replaced "with a warm body".
He is the 2nd OLB in a 3-4 defense and therefore should be compared to those in that same category. To compare him to other #1's like Brian Orakpo, Tamba Hali, or Cameron Wake is not practical. That is DeMarcus Ware's job. He matches up against the other guy, and let's see how that works. Let's look at the "2nd Best" in terms of sack totals that outperformed Spencer of the 3-4s in the NFL in 2011:
Player, Team Sacks Tackles
Kerrigan, Wash 9 40
Harrison, Pitt 9 38
Taylor, Mia 7 11
Spencer, Dal 6 53
That is your entire list of OLBs in 3-4 defenses (11 teams in NFL ran true 3-4s in 2011) that had more productive sack seasons than Anthony Spencer did in 2011. So, if you can get Ryan Kerrigan in here to replace Spencer, I would do that (of course, he is under contract in Washington for 4 more seasons). Jason Taylor is strictly a pass rusher and James Harrison is usually Pittsburgh's #1 but had a banged up season (LaMarr Woodley had 10 sacks). However, the 3-4s in San Francisco, Kansas City, Houston, San Diego, Green Bay, Arizona, and New York all had 2nd LBs that were either at Spencer's 6 or well below.
Obviously, this is not an apples to apples comparison. Some have dominant defensive lines (Arizona, San Francisco) and some have ensemble casts that use a strength in numbers attack.
But, the idea that a warm body can outperform every other 2nd LB in the scheme with the exception of those 3 teams seems worth noting. Next, look at the same category in 2010:
Player, Team Sacks Tackles
Woodley, Pitt 9 30
Spencer, Dal 5 53
I'm interested to see what round the Giants pick Chandler Jones in.
Here's the remaining part of Bob's discussion.
So, again, if you can get Woodley to replace Spencer (like they did on draft day, 2007) then I recommend the Cowboys pull the trigger. Trouble is, Woodley has been signed in Pittsburgh for $60 million dollars. Below that, there are a number of #2 LBs who had between 3-5 sacks, but drastically fewer tackles and assists than Anthony Spencer.
The point of this exercise is to readily admit that you can do better than Anthony Spencer by acquiring a true #1 Linebacker opposite DeMarcus Ware. Of course, the costs will be substantial and we must remember that this is not fantasy football. In fantasy football, you acquire "pass rush specialists" at every spot an think you will get 100 sacks. But, in real football, if you don't have a player setting the edge and shutting down strong side rushing plays, then you get beat. Spencer, of all outside linebackers in the 3-4 in the last two seasons has more tackles than anyone. 53 in 2010 (ranked 2nd behind James Harrison) and 53 in 2011 (ranked 2nd behind Calvin Pace).
Is Pace available? No. Is Harrison available? No. Is Kerrigan? No. Is Orakpo? No.
And yet, I have people telling me that Victor Butler, Alex Albright, or "anyone" can do what Spencer has done?
That is just an unreasonable way to summarize his play in the last few years for the Cowboys. Sacks are important and vital for a 3-4 to get sacks from that spot (of course, it wouldn't hurt if he was standing next to a Defensive end or tackle that could occasionally get home, too) but it is not the entire position.
Spencer's sacks, pressures, QB hits, and tackles combine to show you a much more balanced view of his performance and while it is easy for a reader or fan to simply marginalize everything he does for this team, it is imperative for the brains in the Cowboys war-room to either upgrade him or remember what he brings to the table and keep him in the stable.
Now, I do not say all of this to say that he has been a great pick, or a suitable stud, or even someone who is not replaceable. But as I look at the draft and free agency, I do not see someone who is clearly better than him at the all-around game at his position. The only 3-4 outside linebackers that are on the market are Ahmad Brooks (a player that San Francisco is happy to replace), Eric Walden (discarded by Green Bay), and Clark Haggans (35 years old). Further, if I use pick #14 on another outside linebacker, then I cannot use that pick on a defensive lineman, defensive back, or offensive lineman - where I clearly still have holes.
So, do I take Courtney Upshaw or Melvin Ingram at #14 to fill a hole I just made? I don't think you make any progress letting a solid linebacker go if there is another alternative.
With that in mind, here is my proposal to keep from having to either let him walk or sign him to an extension that makes everyone uncomfortable.
I slap the franchise tag on him. The tag this year is $8.8 million and keeps him in a Cowboys uniform for another season so the franchise can fill their other holes and find his replacement.
Therefore, I am not married to him, and yet I do not open up another major hole. If he performs well in 2012, we talk extension. If I think he is holding me back, we move along.
But, I cannot fix this defense by subtracting a reasonable piece while adding another. That is called running in place while the clock continues to tick on the primes of Ware, Jay Ratliff, Tony Romo, Jason Witten, and Miles Austin. I need to figure out which places are well below average (both defensive ends, cornerback) and address those while allowing players in their prime to stay in the mix so the Cowboys can try to win now.
Franchising Spencer might hurt to write that big of a check, but since this alternative is available, I think the Cowboys should strongly consider it to buy them some time in an effort to turn this thing around quickly. Cap room is available and this is a great way to put the decision off for 12 months.
"So, do I take Courtney Upshaw or Melvin Ingram at #14 to fill a hole I just made? I don't think you make any progress letting a solid linebacker go if there is another alternative. I cannot fix this defense by subtracting a reasonable piece while adding another. That is called running in place while the clock continues to tick on the primes of Ware, Jay Ratliff, Tony Romo, Jason Witten, and Miles Austin."
Such backward logic. Drafting a OLB and letting Spencer walk is perfectly reasonable if you use the cap room more effectively. Overpaying Spencer and drafting a rookie CB (who generally struggle) is a worse option imo than signing a good CB, maybe a center or nose tackle, keeping Robinson etc. Not having to invest long term is nice but giving a solid, but unspectacular player 9mil for a season is not getting us any closer to getting us over the hump. I appreciate his sacks last season against Seattle, Arizona, and Miami though. Hopefully this is just smoke. Take a small step back at OLB and upgrade in other areas. Would rather throw that money at Coreland Finnegan/Brent Grimes or a pair of cheaper options in Carlos Rogers/Paul Soliai.
And you cannot take back a franchise tag if that player agrees to the terms. Spencer might very well jump at making 9mil for one season.
Last edited by indaclutch; 02-17-2012 at 02:09 AM.
Solid point about getting better in the trenches. However, Rex Ryans system is predicated on using his extra bodies closer to the line and forcing his outside corners to play more man on man with less help over the top. If Wade was still coaching the defense, then fine. Maybe throw our FA dollars at Spencer. Guessing Ryan gets his way and we find ourselves a very good veteran CB. Plug some other holes and can go BPA in the draft with pass rusher a strong possibility. Defense needs help pretty much everywhere.
You also have to consider the wisdom of gutting the interior of the O-line in $#@!canning Gurode and Big when there were no competent replacements on the roster. Sure, those guys are on the downhill side of their careers, but I'd bet my left nut those two dudes would have meant at least a one game difference in Dallas' record- and hence, an NFC East title (and no Superbowl title for NY).
If we locked up spencer for 4-5 years, how much would it cost? I'm guessing 4-5 a year.. So would anyone actually be opposed to that? It would take care of a need and save dallas about 4 million in cap space that can be used to go after an interior lineman or help in the secondary..
Personally.. I hope we can grab another passrusher in the draft but I really don't think you want to be in a position where you are forcing a rookie to start 16 games for you. It really does depend on what Dallas can get done in free agency.
Hell.. going back and looking at how the season went down.. NYJ, Detroit, Zona and the 1st giants game were all games they should have won anyways.. We can blame the oline but realistically, all those games were lost because the defense couldn't make a stop. There is quite clearly a lack of talent in certain positions on the defense and it needs to be addressed.
After reviewing the list of free agents I have come to the following conclusion: The cowboys suck.
I would take Laurent Robinson and...... well, let's see....
Yep, L Robinson is the only one who deserves a spot.
If they're going to blow $8-9 mil on one player, I'd rather it was a top 3-4 DE that can get pressure, or a playmaking DB, than an average OLB, when they already have a backup who is a better pass rusher than Spencer, just not as good against the run. The players they get with that money would add up to more than what they keep with Spencer.
You can remove the tag and let him go his marry way, but it's not done very often because it's kinda chicken-$#@!, and it's not good NFL karma with your team and potential signees. It's much better to take your chances and let him test the market, and hope that teams are cooler on him than he expected and maybe you can get him back at a more reasonable price.
Nah if the player agrees to the franchise tag terms and signs then you can't take it back. Most guys hem and haw obviously though, want a long term deal and are simply forced to accept the tag before the season.
If were going to be giving 9 mil a year to a player give me Finnegan or Carl Nicks over Almost Anthony. Being great against the run is not that amazing in todays NFL. Defend the pass.
Issue on Gurode, Davis, & some of the others is the same. Signed to long term contracts for too much money. 28 million of the expected 120 million cap this year will go towards players who weren't even on the team last year, including Davis, Colombo, Barber, Gurode, Igor and Roy Williams. No clue what releasing Newman would bring it to.
The Cowboys have freed up about 17 million in cap space, but nearly a quarter of their salary cap money is dead. How do you build a winning team with this situation?
Anthony Spencer doesn't strike me as franchise material. I know the Cowboys historically haven't used that tag much, but if they don't, it's another huge need some draft/FA. I'd rather give Spencer $9m for one year and see how he reacts to the pressure than sign him for the next 3-5 years.
Cowboys sound ready to spend
The Cowboys cut a number of big-name, big money players before last season. That pushed a lot of dead money into 2012, which was supposed to create salary cap issues this year.
It hasn’t worked out that way.
Dallas already has roughly $12.3 million in cap room, and that’s before the expected release of cornerback Terence Newman (due $6 million) and other potential cost-cutting measures.
Add it all up: The Cowboys are going to be aggressive this offseason.
“I give Stephen [Jones] a lot of credit for taking a year we thought would be Armageddon for us, and we were able to do some things last year with the cap that puts us and gives us some viability,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said via the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “Stephen and a lot of the crew he works with regarding the caps, regarding the contracts, all of that has given us a chance to have some room to improve this team this year.
“And we will use it.”
There are always creative ways to get around cap problems. Dallas finds a way to spend even when they are tight to the cap.
With so much room this year, it’s safe to expect the Cowboys to (over)spend plenty in March.
Contracts in the NFL are not guaranteed and neither is the franchise contract. If the team, at any point in time decides to release the player, he becomes a free agent.
I believe the Bears franchised Forte because they didn't want to sign him to a long term deal and they knew someone would give him a good deal if he became a free agent. Forte was pissed off because he wasn't able to get him a 5 year deal. Now if his productivity slips, Chicago can release him without any salary cap hit.
The Cowboys realize that franchising Spencer guarantees they will have him next year if they want him. If they find another olb in the draft or free agency, then they release Spencer. The worst position the Cowboys can be in is being forced to either over pay a free agent olb to a 4 or 5 year deal or reach for an olb in the draft.
How about a hypothetical where a top corner and DE falls to Dallas in the 1st and 2nd round, they pick up a quality cover safety in the 3rd round and are able to sign a quality guard in free agency. Under that scenario, not having to reach to bring in an olb could pay off long term because you were able to draft the best players and sign a reasonably priced free agent guard. You improve your pass defense, pass rush and OL.
Last edited by cdt23; 02-17-2012 at 10:16 PM.
What you're missing is that signing a franchise deal means he gets paid the average of the top 5 at his position, which would be around 9 million. There's no way the Cowboys couldn't get more out of that $9 than Spencer. And then they still have to deal with the same problem a year later.
A lot of free agents are signed for two or three years, some even one year deals. The Cowboys should let Spencer go, and if they need to, sign a middle of the road stop-gap player that will get as much production as Spencer for a fraction of the price, while drafting at his position to find a long-term solution.
Last edited by DougO; 02-18-2012 at 12:47 AM.
And they need to find out if Victor Butler is a player, or if they need to just cut bait and start over at linebacker. They keep saying they love him, but he rarely sees the field.
Secondly, you're correct about the $#@!ty defense, but I still say they win that 1-2 more games with better play on the O-line, regardless. Not saying the end result would have been like the Giants, by any means.
This is a smart move, no decisions have been made whether Spencer will be on the team next year. That decision won't be made until the draft is over and free agency has been evaluated.
This is a Jason Garrett and Stephen Jones move, well thought out and deliberate.
How many franchise tag guys have been released before the season? Just trying to get a handle on why almost every team doesn't slap a tag on a guy in a hopes of working out a reasonable deal. What are the downsides?
I'm think the reason that you don't see teams using the franchise tag as a control tool and then moving on later is that a team can only use the franchise designation once a year. Slap it on and then releasing a player from it and you can't use it again or at least that's the way I understand it.....
Yeah but only 13 teams franchised a player last year and 5 the year before. Even if there was no chance in hell a team would pay that guy the money, why not? If you can't work something out, cut him. Franchising Spencer then cutting him if we find someone else seems a little too easy.
Jones is lucky Romo isn't a quadriplegic, however, by throwing scrubs out there at center and guard.
Free $#@!ing sucks, too. They seem to think he'll be a stud by putting him at right tackle- bull$#@!. Another brilliant contract/personnel move.
If you franchise a player you have to pay him the average of the top 5 players at the position. A player franchised has historically been a top player. Spencer is a solid OLB, not great and certainly not worth the average of the top 5 OLB's. The Cowboys are not interested in giving him a 4 or 5 year deal(someone will) but don't have his replacement on their team. The Cowboys would rather get younger and cheaper at the position.
If they can they release him, if not they over pay for one year. It is an option.
The money is guaranteed if the player agrees to 1 year terms.
Successful franchises have to make those tough calls every offseason. Even if we have to sign a cheap vet as insurance for Victor Butler that is only notching three sacks a year, so what? Purposely overpaying guys is not the way to greatness. Still have to sign a backup QB. If we keep Spencer at that price tag, the rest of our FA money would be skimming the bottom of the barrel for our #3 CB and #3 WR.
As far as improving the trenches how about a quality center or DE? Kenyon Coleman and rookies on the offensive line is what happens when you have no money to spend.
Last edited by indaclutch; 02-18-2012 at 03:05 PM.
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