The Jerry Jones Dictionary:
“To fill needs”– Sign players at key position needs prior to the draft, who are recovering from major injuries and therefore come cheap. Often players 30 years old or over (considered past prime in NFL). Occasionally possess known significant character deficiencies that make other teams label them as high risk. In the view of some fans, a tactic implemented by the self indulgent owner to save money and justify an absence of a real drafting strategy.
Example: “After his major knee surgery, and since no one else would sign him, I signed the 30 year old Anthony Spencer for a fraction of what he made last season so that I can now draft yet another pass receiver, or whatever I happen to desire at the time, and not have to be bothered with drafting a real 4-3 type defensive end.”
Heading into the 2014 draft in May, picking up a quality DE has been ranked as a high priority for Dallas by about any NFL draft analyst you may read. Big shoes to be filled with Ware gone to the Broncos.
But now that they have Spencer back, should Jerry consider the DE position all taken care of? While I don’t see this one year deal as a bad investment, I think it would be a mistake to assume that Spencer will be all they need at DE in 2014. Having said that, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Jerry not address the DE position in the draft by making a late round pick or not at all.
After all, it was Jerry who told us prior to the 2013 season that defensive line was a strength for the team with Ratliff returning from injury and Ware a sure bet to adapt to DE. How that work out for us? Turned out Ratliff wasn’t ready to play and Ware never hit his stride as a DE in the 4-3 so Jerry was left signing any defensive linemen he could find. It was classic Jerry Jones and the results speak for themselves.
While many Dallas fans may feel reassured by the signing of A.S. and he is inexpensive, I don’t feel so good about it and here is why I’m concerned about Spencer next season.
My Concerns with Spencer:
1. Injury & Age: In week 2, Spencer injured his left knee which caused him to miss the entire season. He finished the season with just two tackles. At 30 years old he is attempting to recover from microfracture knee surgery.
His agent said in September that he would be fully recovered by February 2014 but recently it’s reported that he hopes to be available by preseason in July. He is jogging now. Some fans point out that he is rehabbing at Valley Ranch so by signing him, Jerry feels good about progress. But Spencer took a visit to the East rival Giants and Redskins who didn’t offer a contract. An indication those teams didn’t feel good about it.
I think the fact is at this point, no one really knows when Spencer will be able to return to action or how his knee will hold up to 16 games in the trenches as a hand on the ground DE. Playing DE is even tougher on the body than OLB and the departed Ware indicated that was indeed the case.
2. Position Change: For 6 years, Spencer has played OLB in a 3-4 defense. He had one very good season that being in 2012 a contract season. (funny how that goes right) Now he is being asked to convert to DE at 30 years old. It’s fair to say that during his career, Spencer has been a more effective run defender than pass rusher. He was often criticized for a lack of sack production as he reached double digit sacks only once in his career.
Marinelli’s 4-3 defense is about getting after the QB and they need a DE who can provide a significant pass rush. Playing OLB is more about playing in space while playing DE, is more about playing in the trenches. Even if Spencer’s knee holds up, I’m not convinced he is an ideal fit at defensive end in this 4-3 defense. Believe it when I see it.
Fans can debate whether bringing Spencer back was a smart move or not and time will tell but we can all agree Dallas must get younger on their defensive line. Attempting to squeeze another year out of a banged up veteran is just the Jerry Jones “same old-same old” and as far as their defensive line goes, the future is now.
I’m convinced Jerry and Stephen need to draft a DE early like by the third round, or they may regret it.