Source: Cowboys hit 'downturn' in Spencer talks

Cowboys have hit what a source terms a "downturn'' in contract negotiations with franchise-tagged DE Anthony Spencer.

IRVING, Texas — The Dallas Cowboys have hit what a source terms a "downturn'' in contract negotiations with franchise-tagged defensive end Anthony Spencer, the problem being the club believes recent NFL deals have shoved the market value of comparable players down to the $5-million-a-year range.

The Spencer camp wants the recent five-year, $66-million extension given to Packers linebacker Clay Matthews to be part of the conversation. Or, at least, the $8-million-a-year deal Cleveland gave pass-rushing linebacker Paul Kruger to lure him from Baltimore.

But three other NFL contracts hang like dark clouds over Spencer's wishes of receiving a long-term deal in Dallas before July 15, the deadline to re-up him or else the one-time Pro Bowler will play out the season at the tag number of $10.6 million.

Three contracts are being used by the Cowboys as leverage: Cliff Avril's deal to move him to Seattle at $7.5 million a year but only for two seasons, so the total is only $13 million and the signing bonus is just $4.5 million; Elvis Dumervil's deal to move him to Baltimore at about $5 million a year; and another Seattle bargain, Michael Bennett's deal for just one year and $4.8 million.

Spencer's side is arguing that all three in this situation are anomalies, especially in the cases of Dumervil (who signed with Baltimore after the infamous fax mixup in Denver) and Bennett, signed by the Seahawks with their full knowledge of his torn rotator cuff problem.

Spencer is clear on what he wishes his future to be.

"I want to be here for the rest of my career," says Spencer, Dallas' top defensive player last season. "Hopefully we can get that done. If we can't, then so be it."

The "so-be-it'' scenario for both sides in the Spencer negotiations isn't that bad. The Cowboys might get a contract-season performance from Spencer while avoiding overspending on an admittedly quality player who is 29 years old (as they develop replacements like Tyrone Crawford). And Spencer might get to play under the terms of that $10.6 million existing deal.