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Best Fits for Cowboys Pass Rusher Anthony Spencer on the Open Market

John RozumCorrespondent IJanuary 11, 2013

Best Fits for Cowboys Pass Rusher Anthony Spencer on the Open Market

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    Anthony Spencer of the Dallas Cowboys is expected to become a free agent.

    Per Rotoworld of NBC Sports

    ESPN's Ed Werder stated on SportsCenter Friday that the Cowboys will likely let free agent OLB Anthony Spencer walk in free agency following the hire of Monte Kiffin as defensive coordinator.

    This comes as a bit of a surprise considering Spencer finished 2012 with 11 sacks and 95 tackles, both career bests. Also, Spencer will be just 29 years at the end of the month.

    Given that pass rushers often play at a high level well into their 30's these days, he is appealing to teams needing to spruce up their 3-4 outside 'backers corps. Getting to the quarterback is the primary defensive objective in a pass-happy league.

Cleveland Browns

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    According to Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

    The Browns are also likely to switch to a 3-4 defense, a source said, which means defensive coordinator Dick Jauron is probably gone. As for a new general manager to work alongside Chudzinski, the Browns have been eyeing Kansas City Director of Pro Personnel Ray Farmer.

    The Cleveland Browns have some of the personnel capable of transitioning into the 3-4 scheme.

    At the same time, experience and depth will be required for a smoother adaptation. Front seven rushers such as Jabaal Sheard and Frostee Rucker suit him well, because Sheard possesses the size to become an outside linebacker.

    Thanks to a larger size frame, Rucker can remain a defensive end in the 3-4 and have Anthony Spencer to his side. Combine the 38 sacks that Cleveland tallied in 2012 with with the potential that Spencer would bring as a pass rusher and the 2013 offseason may unfold nicely for Cleveland.

Indianapolis Colts

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    The Indianapolis Colts need to pursue Anthony Spencer for an infusion of youth at the role of pass rusher.

    Dwight Freeney will be 33 years old and Robert Mathis will be 32 next month.

    The concern is that both played in a 4-3 front prior to the 2012 season. Unfortunately, Freeney and Mathis combined for only 13 sacks and 45 tackles this year.

    Getting Spencer simply adds reliable depth to the position and a younger player who has developed within a 3-4 front. Spencer continues to improve against the run as well, which is something Indy desperately needs after allowing an average of 5.1 yards per rush.

    Not to mention having to face AFC South running backs such as Arian Foster, Maurice Jones-Drew and Chris Johnson.

New York Jets

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    Much like the Colts, Rex Ryan's linebackers for the New York Jets are aging.

    When the 2013 season commences, Bryan Thomas will be 34 years old and Bart Scott will be 33. Calvin Pace will turn 33 by mid-season.

    Factor in Gang Green only recording 30 sacks throughout 2012 and allowing 4.3 yards per rushing attempt and it becomes obvious a talent like Spencer is needed. For one, he's already a more consistent rusher than anyone on the Jets and that impact will only assist those in coverage.

    Despite ranking No. 2 against the pass, New York only intercepted 11 passes and still gave up 20 passing touchdowns. The run defense was horrendous and Spencer is capable of squeezing the edge to hold contain.

    Then, Ryan's once-feared defense should return to form: suffocating against the run and applying constant quarterback pressure.

Green Bay Packers

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    The Green Bay Packers aren't in dire need of another outside linebacker, but considering Anthony Spencer isn't a bad idea.

    This season, Clay Matthews missed four games and rookie Nick Perry underwent season-ending wrist surgery after appearing in just six games.

    Per Mike Florio of NBC Sports in early November:

    Packers linebacker Nick Perry’s rookie season has ended.

    As expected, the first-round pick from USC has been placed on injured reserve with a wrist injury.

    So, getting Spencer would be good for health purpose at first glance. Include Spencer's pro experience and proven dependability as a complementary pass rusher for Demarcus Ware, his presence will add to the dominance of Matthews.

Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Even though the Pittsburgh Steelers recorded 37 sacks this season, we can't expect that kind of production next season, unless Dick LeBeau's defense gets younger and healthier.

    James Harrison will be 35 years old this year and he's just one guy in Pittsburgh's front seven.

    Casey Hampton is going to be 36, Brett Keisel 35 and Larry Foote 33. Breaking down the schematics of the 3-4 front, its basic objective is to get immediate quarterback pressure.

    The result of that pressure makes it easier for the defensive line and inside linebackers to make plays. Combining the elements of Harrison's age and the fact that no player in Pittsburgh recorded more than six sacks and it's no surprise the Steelers failed to consistently force turnovers.

    At some point, a defense must simply replenish its veterans with younger players.

    Much of the Steelers' success this century is the resulting of continuity and developing players within the same scheme over time. Acquiring Spencer, though, will easily transition the dire need to rely on youth and develop the first and second-year guys.

    Spencer's experience alone is appealing because not landing him increases the odds of 2013 echoing the 2012 iteration of the Steelers defense, in which a dominant pass rusher like Spencer was sorely missed.

     

    Follow John Rozum on Twitter.

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