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Eatman: Keeping Spencer Should Be Higher Priority

Posted Mar 17, 2014


IRVING, Texas – DeMarcus Ware is gone. Jason Hatcher went out the door right behind him.

If I’m the Cowboys, I make sure Anthony Spencer isn’t the next to go.

At some point, keeping at least some of the core players intact should be a priority here, even if it means re-signing a player who couldn’t pass a physical today.

Spencer is the biggest risk of all these free agents because he’s not only coming off microfracture knee surgery, but he’s probably on the downside of his career, having just turned 30 in January.

Yes, he visited the Redskins last week and the Giants on Sunday. But all of them have to be concerned about his knee. The Cowboys should be concerned as well, but at least their guys have been here rehabbing him.

To me, it doesn’t matter if the Cowboys sign Jared Allen on Tuesday or Henry Melton or somehow figure out a way to get both.

I’m trying to keep Spencer in the fold, especially if you can get him for a discounted salary and/or an incentive-based deal.

Since the day they drafted him, I’ve always thought Spencer needed to be a 4-3 defensive end. He just seemed too small to consistently rush the passer as an outside linebacker and not athletic enough to be a difference maker against the pass. But a 4-3 end is what Spencer is, and it’s a shame he didn’t get the chance to show that last year.

Who knows if he’ll ever be the same now? But players have come back from microfracture surgery and had success, most notably New Orleans wide receiver Marques Colston, who has undergone the procedure on both knees.

I’m not saying Spencer is better than Allen by any means. And when it comes to just spending money, I think I’d take Melton over Spencer even though they play different positions. But at least Melton is 27 and coming off an ACL injury, typically easier to recover from without losing much mobility.

But if there’s a way to keep Spencer in the mix, the Cowboys should do it.

There’s just something about the mindset of having familiar faces, people you can count on. Ware was that guy forever. Hatcher somewhat became that player the last few years, especially last season. For the secondary, the linebackers, having guys up front you know will be able to make plays, especially in the clutch, is crucial.

The last time Spencer was healthy, he made more clutch plays than any defensive player we’ve seen in several years, and that includes Ware. Spencer was the guy toward the end of 2012 making fourth-quarter sacks and forcing fumbles and recovering them.

Obviously, Spencer and his agent are going to want a contract that resembles the player making those plays. The Cowboys are going to want a contract for a guy coming off microfracture surgery.

Based on the events of the last week, though, I’d say the Cowboys and Spencer should try and meet in the middle on this one.

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