The Cowboys may not be done with free agent linebacker Anthony Spencer just yet.
According to a team source, Spencer is a candidate for the franchise tag, giving him a one-year deal of about $8.8 million.
Never mind that he has largely been a disappointment since joining the Cowboys as a first round pick in 2007. Never mind that has never had more than six sacks in the season and has yet to provide a consistent force opposite All-Pro DeMarcus Ware.
He is solid against against the run as he was fourth on the Cowboys with 74 tackles in 2011. He also led in forced fumbles with four and tied for the team lead in tackles for losses with eight.
And getting back to the pass rush, Spencer did have 31 quarterback pressures, second behind Ware's 40. What doesn't translate is the six sacks to 19.5 for Ware. That number needs in improvement. The Cowboys know as much.
But the bottom line with a potential franchise decision on Spencer is finding a potential replacement for him.
There are few options on the free-agent market _ unless you consider Houston's Mario Williams. He is likely the top free agent the market and will command a hefty price. He would be a huge financial risk for Cowboys considering his limited experience in the 3-4 _ especially at strongside outside linebacker which is Spencer's spot.
Another option is Indianapolis defensive end Robert Mathis, who could potentially make the move to outside linebacker in a 3-4. But again he has never played the position and he is 31 years old compared to Spencer who just turned 28.
And if the Cowboys don't find a replacement in free agency and don't sign Spencer, they box themselves into the possibly making a bad decision in the draft by forcing them to pick for need.
The Cowboys have made no final decisions. But franchising Spencer is being discussed.
-- Clarence E. Hill Jr.