There has been a sizable amount of back-and-forth about what the Dallas Cowboys should do with outside linebacker Anthony Spencer this offseason.
An unrestricted free agent if not re-signed by March 13, Spencer has been a candidate for the franchise tag—even if the tag would cost the Cowboys $8.8 million on their 2012 salary cap. There's always the possibility of a new contract extension or Spencer simply walking away in free agency, too.
Either way, we should know soon which way the team is going to go.
According to a report from ESPNDallas.com writer Calvin Watkins, the two sides have a meeting scheduled for this week. At that meeting, the Cowboys are expected to lay out what they plan to do with their free agent pass-rusher.
The Cowboys have tentative plans to speak with the agent for free agent outside linebacker Anthony Spencer by the end of the week about a possible new contract or to inform him his client will get a franchise tag.
The potential discussions between Spencer's agent, Roosevelt Barnes, and the team would be the second in the last week. Barnes said he met with Cowboys officials at the national scouting combine in Indianapolis last week and was open to more discussions.
Spencer, 28, is coming off arguably his best professional season.
According to Pro Football Focus, Spencer ranked as the No. 10 overall 3-4 outside linebacker. Only a poor penalty grade—he had seven accepted penalties against him in 2011—kept Spencer from cracking the top eight.
Over 939 snaps, Spencer racked up six sacks, nine quarterback hits and 35 pressures. He was also second among 3-4 outside linebackers in tackles with 53, and fourth in stops, which measures a tackle that results in a "negative play for the offense," at 39.
Considering the 49ers' Ahmad Brooks—who ranked lower than Spencer in almost every discernible statistical category in 2011—just received a six-year, $44.5 million ($17 million guaranteed) extension this week, the market is somewhat set for the Cowboys' offer.
Will they be willing to give Spencer that much money to stay in Dallas?
If the two sides can't come to an agreement on a deal, Watkins made it sound like the franchise tag was very much an option for both sides. At the very least, it would give the two sides more time to pound out a long-term deal.
Overall, however, it doesn't sound like the Cowboys want Spencer hitting the open market. They could be in a position to draft a pass-rusher at No. 14 overall in April's NFL draft, but the Cowboys know what they are getting in Spencer.
Secondary and interior offensive line are also other needs Dallas needs to address, either through the draft or in free agency. Locking up Spencer would certainly give Dallas some freedom come April.