Anthony Spencer is a 28 year old free agent to be. He has spent his entire five year career as an outside linebacker with the Dallas Cowboys. For the last three years, he has started across from DeMarcus Ware. Will he get a look from the Jets?
For information about Spencer, let us go straight to the source, SB Nation's Cowboys site, Blogging the Boys.
Spencer is terrific against the run and can also cover but OLBs are measured on disruptive and Spencer has never quite put up the numbers many were hoping for.
The word about his play against the run and in coverage sounds good. His production as a pass rusher looks pedestrian on the surface. He has never registered more than 6 sacks in a season.
I would like to big a bit deeper, though. Sacks only tell part of the story. There are other measures of success as a pass rusher. Hurrying and hitting the quarterback also have big impacts. They forced rushed, inaccurate passes, make the passer uncomfortable, and give receivers less time to get open. Late in Eric Mangini's tenure, the Jets had decent sack numbers, but their pass rush was anemic because they generated no pressure on plays where they did not get a sack.
Looking at Pro Football Focus' numbers on Spencer's sacks, hits, and pressures suggests he is an extremely productive pass rusher. Since he became a starter in 2009, he disrupted the quarterback on 11.7% of plays he was a pass rusher. That is really good. By comparison, Jason Pierre-Paul of the Giants is doing so at a 9.5% clip in this monster year he is having.
Does this make Spencer an elite pass rusher? Probably not. There is certainly a mitigating factor. Playing across from Ware probably helps him a lot. Other teams are usually sending every extra blocker they have at Ware and away from Spencer. Spencer also has lined up against right tackles a lot, who tend to be less nimble or productive as pass protectors. He also has a really good pass rushing nose tackle in Jay Ratliff drawing blockers up the middle. Spencer is a guy who gets a lot of favorable matchups.
I think Spencer is a very well rounded linebacker. He is probably a better pass rusher than his sack stats would suggest and not quite as good as the deeper numebers would indicate. He is still likely better at getting to the quarterback than anybody the Jets have. This series is not meant to talk about money.
It is unclear what Spencer is going to command. Perhaps in a market that could have Robert Mathis and Mario Williams as premier pass rushers, Spencer will come at a more reasonable rate. Perhaps he will still demand Calvin Pace money. For almost every player, a certain price makes sense and one does not. I do like him as a player, though, so I think the Jets should take a look at him at the right price.