It’s Fibbing Season’s Eve

Robinson’s fate is being

Two sources, two similar stories.

A few years ago, ESPN Dallas mainstay Bryan Broaddus told me NFL teams make a couple of draft boards.  They assemble a preliminary one, right about now, which uses tape study and All Star game data.  They then tweak that board after the Combine, the copious interviews and the pro day workouts.  He noted that the preliminary board is the purest one an organization can get, because it’s based wholly on on-field performance, and not on the underwear Olympics, as the Combine has come to be known.

Last week, I asked Wes Bunting what he hoped to learn at the Combine.  His words echoed Broaddus’.  He said this is when teams start blowing smoke, either hinting at players they like, or starting the process of disinformation, to throw rivals off their plans.  (Much more on this later.)

Right now, we’re in position to build our own confidence board.  To lock down what we think and what we know the Cowboys need, and how they’re likely to act, before any pre-free agent and pre-draft hucklebucks.

Let’s start with the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram blog report today that Anthony Spencer may be franchised by the team.  The post draws no conclusions.  It cites a team source who says Spencer may be kept on a one-year deal.  That makes some sense, if the team is playing conservatively.  It does not know if it can sign Mario Williams in free agency.  And it does not want to be shoe-horned into spending its top draft pick on a pass rusher, especially when it’s not sure what options it may have at pick 14.

The team may throw deep for Williams.  It may chase a Melvin Ingram.  It may roll the dice on Victor Butler.  Or, it may cover itself with one more year of Spencer.

All the story confirms is that team meetings are underway.  We’ve taken our shots at the Cowboys 2012 blueprint.  Now, the guys at Valley Ranch are doing the same.  The scouts have returned from all the All-Star games.  The coaches have concluded from their post-season breaks.  The real blueprint is being drafted.

The Combine starts in ten days or so.  Dozens of collegians will be interviewed there.  A couple dozen agents will also be interviewed, to gauge their clients’ opinions on joining the Cowboys.

We’re about to enter the fibbing season.  Take a deep breath, while you can.

Later today:  Stanford Routt’s 2010 and 2011 and how he rates in the free agent corner field. 

Rafael Vela

Rafael Vela

Senior Analyst Cowboys at Sports Talk Line
Started covering Dallas Cowboys @ in '95 and '96. Two more stops along the way and here I am. Senior Analyst for
Rafael Vela

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  • Joseph Heade

    All I know is we have two big issues. One is trying to find ways to counter other teams strength is our own division first and foremost. Eagles = Pass Rush. NY = Pass Rush and now the Deadskins have 2 stud Pass Rusher too…What can we do….Ohhh I about adding Nicks in Free Agnecy and Getting De Castro and trade down in rd 2 (pick up a third) and draft C Ben Jones. I think we’d be light years ahead of last year and we would have amazing depth with the Youglies who got some experience. I just know we better start
    A. Protecting Romo
    B. Give the man some time to find all those weapons on O
    C. Give Running lanes to D. Murray and Felix
    D. Provide push in the Red Zone where we cant even run a 1 yd rush.

    SAID IT ALL…..

    • dacolan

      No need to spend $9M per on Nicks when C was far and away the weakest link along the OL and a quality vet can be signed for $5-6M per to man the pivot.

      Holland actually acquitted himself quite well grading out about as well as the other popular FA OG target Ben Grubbs. We also know this is reportedly a deep draft pool at OG, we still have the developmental youngsters in the pipeline (Arkin, Costa, Kowalski, Nagy) and if DeCastro is there at #14 he’s probably the BPA anyway.

      I agree Dallas needs to make upgrading the OL a priority, but there’s no need to blow our wad on Nicks to accomplish that.

  • White Wolf

    I sometimes wonder if these analysts actually watch film on the players. If you look at stats, you can draw this conclusion about Spencer as one of the best 2s in the league. If you watch the player in action, its hard to draw the same conclusion.

    Spencer was very weak in the last few games. At least one of those sacks was a gift, as Lee, a real player by the way, flushed the QB right into Spencer’s arms. Almost just happened to be standing there. Yes, standing there. If you focus your attention on Spencer for any length of time you come away, not just uninspired, but steaming mad. He takes plays off. Lots of them.

  • Moghbelli

    That reminds me, with Miami moving to a 4-3 defense there will be some good options (Solai included) from their DLine available maybe even for bargain trading. 

    • Lee1936

      If that’s true, what would you give Miami to get NT Soliai?

      • Lee1936

        I’d offer Bruce Carter and Alan Ball.

        • Mark

          isnt he a free agent?

      • dacolan

        Miami gets nothing if we sign Soliai. He’s a UFA.

  • cowboyny

    I think everyone is missing the main point why the team may either use the franchise or transitional tag on Spencer:

    -They are just protecting themselves, if a quality FA replacement cannot be signed or they fail to land a immediate replacement in the draft. My understanding is the team can remove the tag anytime before June 1st, that is after FA and the draft.

    -If the team drafts a prospect who needs at least 1 yr of development learning a new position, the team can resign Spencer to a level that is far more comfortable than the tendered amount. They do not have to pay the franchise #, Spencer/his agent refuses, they allow Spencer to walk. There is little chance the team pays 8 million for Spencer next season. Just a hedging their bets, just in case no solution can be secured.

    • Raja

      I think if the player signs the tag, it becomes guaranteed.  If I were Spencer and I am tagged, I will wait for the FA period to taper off and see if I get any interest.  If I don’t, I am signing it just before the draft, for sure. 

      After Sturm’s piece I am not sure that signing Mario is going to solve our problems.  He suggests that while our DL might become strong, our LBs will become weak. 

      $9m for Spencer is just tooooo much.  If a contract can be structured that’d guarantee a boatload of money to him (such a roster bonus that become guaranteed based on incentives or guaranteed for injuries) in 2013, it may be something to look at.  Spencer is a FA, so I am not sure how this contract will fly.  He’d figure there is some team out there that’ll pay him now, not later.

  • Cowboys4Life

    According to Drafttek:

    “…a comparative analysis of the top 12 strong side OLB34’s in the league
    shows Spencer to rank 1st in total tackles, tied for 5th in sacks, tied
    for 1st in fumbles forced, tied for 2nd in QB hits and tied for 1st in
    tackles for loss.”

    I don’t think Anthony Spencer is our biggest problem.  Give him a better defensive end on his side AND clog the middle better….I bet his sack numbers improve from 6 to at least the 8.5 level.

    Signing Soliai and moving Ratliff to the end is the best way to do that in my opinion. But taking Brockers and a big NT in the draft might do it as well.

    • Lee1936

      I was not aware of Spencer’s stats in comparison with other 3-4 SOLBs.  According to those numbers, he’s above average, and one of our better guys on defense.
      Therefore, franchising him would be wasteful.  More sensible to sign him to a 6 year contract.  That’s probably what they’ve been trying to do.  The rumor about franchising him is likely a ploy to motivate him to sign a long term contract.

      Signing him eliminates the need to find a SOLB, and enables us to concentrate on filling other priority needs.  So forget about LBs Ingram, Hightower, Burfict, and Upshaw–unless you believe Bruce Carter’s a bust.  

  • trex104

    Building a Super Bowl contender:
     3 Free agents:  Offense
                       LG Ben Grubbs–Carl Nicks too much $$$
                       DE Calais Campbell
                       CB Brandon Carr

    3 Best available                  
     Draft picks:     Offense
                        C   Peter Konz/Ben Jones
                        S   Mark Barron/Markelle Martin/Harrison Smith
                        DT Dontari Poe/Josh Chapman

    • Lee1936

      Dallas has $20 million cap space.  If you sign all three of your targets, plus a backup QB, how much over the cap are you?

    • dacolan

      Grubbs graded out about as well as Montrae Holland last season. Save your $. The ‘Boys are gonna need at least two, if not three, CBs. And this still doesn’t address ILB, backup QB, Spencer, Laurent Robinson, Fiametta, McBriar, etc.

  • Montecito Tex

    Tex believes the pre-draft narrative is accurate… Fill the most pressing needs in free agency, so they can take the best player available in the draft. Forget the one-year rental price tag, it can be overcome with a little restructuring. However, if not franchised, the Cowboys have to draft an OLB. If franchised, they still can if the BPA is an OLB. Smart move.

  • fivetwos

    I mentioned the possibility of franchising Spencer here a while ago, reasoning that they are caught in between wanting to give him big money and being able to let him walk.

    The tag solves that issue (well, delays it), although if it were up to me, I’d cut bait with Spencer, and go with Butler while trying to upgrade at the five.

    I suppose it all comes down to if he can be had for a reasonable long-term deal. Sadly, my gut tells me that’s what is going to happen.

  • zarathustraNU

    I’ve heard the franchise tag rumors about Spencer too…franchise tag for his position would cost about $9MM. That seems WAAAAAY too high for a player of his caliber (His cap hit was under 2MM this past season), and would really limit our options in free agency.

    • Millywood

      9 million would make him one of our highest paid players. It makes no sense to give a stop gap like that THAT much money. Surely we can find a cheaper stop gap on the market

      • dacolan

        And if not a cheaper stop gap, the team would be far better off going after Super Mario than committing $9M against the cap for Spencer. After all, it wouldn’t take much more (and could actually end up costing less this year if structured properly) to sign a serious upgrade when you’re already talking about spending $9M for an avg (at best) pass rusher.

  • Audiris

    9M is too much for Spencer. 

  • AustonianAggie

    I think this season is full to deception but I do use combine measurements to get a feel of good size speed guys, especially as the draft bears on

  • hardwater

    RV, regarding Spencer this post by Bob Sturm on his blog goes along with what you are reporting: and explains why as a 2nd outside LB on a team (not comapred to a Ware, who would be a “1st” OLB) Spencer is not that easy to replace and that by these metrics he is actually one of the top 2nd LB. Very enlightening and the reason I would rather see the Cowboys focus on OL, DT/DE, and CB. 

    • I agree some but if you run a 3-4, you need rush from that 2nd OLB spot.  Compare Spencer to Ellis in ’05 through ’08, when he played OLB.  

      8.0 sacks
      4.5 sacks, in 9 games
      12.5 sacks
      8.5 sacks.

      Nobody was complaining that Ellis was sloppy in his drops, or was weak vs. the run, and he was weaker compared to Ware.

      I can see their reasoning on Spencer, but I don’t want him back.  We know what he can do, and it’s average at best.  

      • AustonianAggie

        it was Ellis’s best run in his career too. Makes me wonder if some pretty good 43 DEs out there now could be stellar 34DEs

        • Jarhead

          for all of ellis’ annoying crybaby act, he played hard on the field, consistently.

      • hardwater

        All in favor of replacing Spencer if we can do better. And maybe a replacement is better for the locker room (I have no idea). Sturm’s point (as I understand it) was that Spencer is far better than average for a team’s 2nd OLB and the stats tend to agree (compared to other team’s 2nd OLB). IMO the Cowboys have far greater needs right now than replacing Spencer and it might be worthwhile to keep him around a little longer while those other major needs are addressed. BTW, I think Spencer has gotten to be a little like Romo in that he’s a lightning rod for controversy and discussion.   

        • Montecito Tex

          Romo’s team presence even brought about a Tiger Woods collapse on Sunday.

          • Lanceb17

            i just pissed myself, tex you are a frikn riot… woods’ collapse has everything to do with karma.  he’s going to be finding fairway divots with his drives for a long long time.

      • skj713

        Hey Raf, what do you think about bringing him back for another season & drafting a guy like Bruce Irvin in the 2nd?

        Have Spencer play 1st & 2nd downs & then bring in Bruce on 3rd or other obvious passing downs. (Like what the 49ers did this year w/ Aldon Smith) 

        This seems like a great fit for Irvin as he can bulk up, add strength, & develop more pass rush moves before being thrown into a starting role. 

        • Kjd811

          I dont want Spencer but this option I could live with.

      • fivetwos

        Yes. The defense this team played in the second half of ’09 was by far it’s best in recent memory.

        That coincided with seemingly the only time in Spencer’s career that he was able to create pressure opposite Ware.

        I’m much more concerned with pass pressure than the run.

        I’d BEG half the teams in the league to run the ball that much more.

      • Lee1936

        His stats indicate he’s better than I thought, easily better than the NFL average. 
        As such, he’s way better than several of his fellow starters on Dallas’ defense.

      • Ark

        trade down Draft Hightower

        get a extra 2nd or 3rd

        IMO hes the best LB in the draft

        • Ark

          don’t believe me go read

          his scouting report NFP

          Used a lot as a pass rusher off the edge in nickel situations. Looks natural sitting into his stance
          and has a good first step. Loves to work the inside move, gain leverage and overpower on contact. Exhibits natural explosion as a bull rush guy and despite lacking ideal know how to shed, he can push the pocket. Demonstrates just enough of a first step to reach the corner, is violent with his hands when working the club/swat to keep himself clean and will try to drop his pad level and dip under blockers, despite being a little tight.Impression: Looks like a potential impact caliber 34-inside linebacker who has the skill set to win inside vs. the run and create pressure on third down as a savvy rush guy as well.

    • Jarhead

      Sturm’s argument seems to be based on the assumption that no guy dallas can sign will represent immediate upgrade to spencer.
      while that may be true, a guy can represent upgrade more sooner than later, maybe even by mid-season.
      this is not meant to argue for signing a replacement in FA or using the 1st rounder for an OLB, but my question with spencer is “want to.”
      im not sure he really cares about being a great football player. he seems to have made little with his opportunity in an all-important contract year.
      can dallas get a guy who can play at a higher level for years to come, even if he initially plays at or about the same level as spencer?  i think they can.

      • Lee1936


        IMO, Ingram will be gone at 1/14.  But who knows?

        In one of Raf’s interviews with Wes Bunting, Wes said SOLB Upshaw was very comparable to Spencer, not an upgrade.