Anthony Spencer's Franchise Tag Is Looking Even Pricier Now

Brad Gagnon NFL National ColumnistMarch 15, 2013

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - AUGUST 27: Phil Loadholt #71 of the Minnesota Vikings makes contact with Anthony Spencer #93 of the Dallas Cowboys on August 27, 2011 at Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

The best financial decision Anthony Spencer ever made was signing his one-year franchise tender before the free-agent market opened on Tuesday. Spencer is now guaranteed a $10.6 million salary in 2013, despite the fact a depressed free-agent market for pass-rushers probably means Spencer is now worth less than he was four days ago. 

Spencer, Michael Johnson and Henry Melton all signed, rather than letting their tenders linger into April, May or even June, as some franchised players have been known to do. Maybe they or their agents were forecasting the future, or maybe they just got lucky. Regardless, their willingness to deal with the tag and sign on the dotted line paid off. 

In the Cowboys' case—from a cold, calculated standpoint—it might have cost them a chance to save some cash and get in on free-agent bargains as the second wave of the process starts. 

Michael Bennett (nine sacks in 2012) got just a one-year, $5 million deal in Seattle. Cliff Avril (9.5 sacks in 2012) got just a two-year, $15 million deal in the same place. William Hayes (seven sacks in 2012) got just a three-year, $10.3 million deal in St. Louis. Meanwhile, John Abraham, Dwight Freeney, Osi Umenyiora and Israel Idonije are still unsigned.

Bennett, Avril and Hayes are all younger than Spencer. Abraham, Freeney and Umenyiora have much stronger track records. 

The only pass-rusher who has been overpaid on the open market is Paul Kruger, who leveraged Baltimore's Super Bowl victory into a deal worth $8.2 million a year with the patsy Cleveland Browns

It's severe enough to cause you to wonder if the Cowboys would have pulled Spencer's tag had he not signed it at the beginning of the week. Under these circumstances, Spencer has little reason to negotiate a long-term deal. Bennett, Avril, Hayes and that group of former studs have come together to diminish the market value for a guy like him. 

As a result, a questionable decision from the Cowboys looks even worse than it did in the first place.