For Dallas Cowboys linebacker Anthony Spencer, playing opposite perennial Pro Bowl pass-rusher DeMarcus Ware has its advantages. He's able to focus on stopping the run and rarely sees double teams when he's asked to rush the quarterback.
The downside is he's a first-round pick whose production will always be compared to Ware, who has 80 sacks to Spencer's 21.5 during their five seasons together.
"It's both a curse and a blessing," Spencer recently said of playing opposite Ware, according to Charean Williams of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "I wouldn't say it's a curse, but it has its benefits and its non-benefits being across from him, definitely."
Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan defended Spencer's impact on the defense.
"I listen to all those radio shows on the way home, and when they're not dog-cussing me, they're dog-cussing him," Ryan said. "The bottom line is: He's a damn good football player. What we asked him to do, he did a great job with. So if we send him more this year (as a pass-rusher), that will be great. I know everybody just looks at the bottom line on sacks or wins, and I don't blame them. But as a coach, you appreciate a guy like Anthony Spencer because he does the right thing, and he plays hard; he forces fumbles; he still rushes the passer. ... I think he's going to have a great year."
The Cowboys clearly value Spencer's contributions to the defense, keeping him off the unrestricted free agent market this offseason with the franchise tag, which carries an $8.856 million base salary for the upcoming season. Spencer has signed the tender, which fully guaranteed the amount, and the two sides have until July 15 to reach a multi-year extension.
Spencer changed agents this offseason, replacing Roosevelt Barnes with Dallas-based agent Jordan Woy in hopes of expediting an extension. Williams adds that the Cowboys are "keeping their options" on Spencer, which could lead to him playing out the season and under the franchise tag. A second franchise tag for Spencer would cost $10.627 million, which only seems likely if he puts up 10-plus sacks, thus having the great year Ryan expects.