After a career year in 2012, Anthony Spencer had to have microfracture surgery on his left knee and appeared in just one game. While that seriously affected his earning potential in free agency, Spencer and the Dallas Cowboys were able to settle on a contract to keep the pass-rusher with the team.
Adam Schefter of ESPN broke the news:
Cowboys brought back Anthony Spencer on a one-year deal, hope he'll be ready for training camp.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) April 26, 2014
Schefter later reported details of the deal:
Cowboys are giving LB Anthony Spencer a 1-year deal that has a max value of $3.5 million. Trainers/doctors will decide when he is ready.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) April 26, 2014
With DeMarcus Ware being cut and signing with the Denver Broncos, the Cowboys had a need to add pass-rushers. Spencer will rotate with George Selvie and new man Jeremy Mincey on the outside, after the Cowboys signed the former Jacksonville Jaguar and Denver Bronco on a two-year deal.
Spencer was excellent in 2012, finishing with 11 sacks, 95 tackles, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. Not surprisingly, the Cowboys franchised him for the second year in a row after that performance. After never quite living up to expectations in his first five seasons, it seemed Spencer finally put things together in 2012, and big things were expected from him in 2013.
Sadly, it wasn't to be, as a left knee injury ended his season. With his injury concerns, and the fact that he turned 30 in January, Spencer became a high-risk, high-bargain option for potential teams in free agency. Spencer's 2012 surely piqued the interest of plenty of teams, even if bidding wars didn't exactly start over him.
From Pete Damilatis of Pro Football Focus:
Surprised Anthony Spencer isn't getting more buzz. In 2012, he led all 3-4 OLBs with 56 defensive stops and a +26.6 @PFF grade.— Pete Damilatis (@PFF_Pete) March 4, 2014
It's no surprise that Dallas signed him, as it was never a question the team would be willing to bring him back for the right price. Jerry Jones and company were hoping he would fully recover, as Jones commented in late January to Brandon Jones of The Dallas Morning News:
Anthony has been an unbelievable player for us, and it’s very unfortunate what happened to him last year. But very productive, obviously a guy we think a lot of. We franchised him last year and of course injuries happen in our league, but he’s the type of player you want on your team. We’ve got our fingers crossed, and I know he does, too, that his injury comes along in the proper way.
Back in Dallas, a hopefully healthy Spencer will continue what he started in 2012. If he's completely recovered from his surgery, the Cowboys brought him back at a bargain rate, as Spencer has the talent to make a major impact coming off the edge. He could end up being one of the savvier moves of the offseason.
And the Cowboys may look like geniuses for bringing him back and letting the older and more expensive Ware go.