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Cowboys OLB Spencer hopes to avoid tag again

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By Eric Edholm

Cowboys OLB Anthony Spencer is having a great season, probably his best ever, he figures.

“Yeah, I’d say so — definitely my most consistent,” Spencer told PFW by phone.

Spencer has a career-high 6½ sacks and is on pace for a career high in tackles by a long shot. He has 65 entering Week 14 and previously topped out at 67 back in 2009.

The lower-body strength work he did in the offseason, including single-leg workouts to help balance his strength following a previous knee scope, really helped him more than he imagined, Spencer said. He also worked on hand placement for his pass-rush technique, and the little things are starting to pay off dividends.

In addition, he’s also doing a lot more that doesn’t show up in the statistics, including calling the team’s defensive signals with ILBs Sean Lee and Bruce Carter on I.R., and team sources say that Spencer might be the Cowboys’ best defender right now — and that includes All-Pro OLB DeMarcus Ware, who has gone two games without a sack.

People are noticing Spencer’s work, even as the Cowboys’ defense has gone south.

“They are (noticing) in this locker room,” Spencer said, “so that’s good enough for me.”

Spencer is a free agent after the season. He was given the franchise tag this offseason and has played this season for the $8.8 million tender.

The decision whether to sign Spencer to a long-term deal after the season for the Cowboys will be tough. As much as they want Spencer’s services, they have a lot of cash tied up in defenders Ware, CB Brandon Carr and NT Jay Ratliff and must pay Lee and Carter down the road.

One option — franchising Spencer a second consecutive year — doesn’t necessarily appeal to him.

“Well, I didn’t want to be franchised the first time,” he said. “I want to be here, and if that’s what it takes, it is what it is.

“Getting a long-term deal is still the end goal, of course.”

Until then, Spencer will wait and continue to take the approach he has since the start of training camp: taking care of what he can control. Everything else, including money and contracts, is out of his hands but can end well if he keeps doing what he does.

“I don’t really know what will happen after the season,” Spencer said. “I try not to think about it. I have no expectations during the season; I am focused on winning and playing well. Things will take care of themselves.”

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