IRVING, Texas – When word got out that defensive lineman Ben Gardner had obtained Anthony Spencer’s jersey number for the upcoming offseason workouts, most assumed Spencer’s eight-year tenure with the Dallas Cowboys was over.
The No. 93 swap was indeed no coincidence.
The Saints announced today (Friday) that Spencer, 31, signed a one-year contract to reunite with ex-Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan in New Orleans. The veteran free agent had also visited the Seattle Seahawks in March after the Cowboys let him test his market value.
A former 26th overall pick, Spencer made one Pro Bowl in 2012 and was an effective pass-rushing complement to DeMarcus Ware in the Cowboys’ 3-4 defense from 2007-2012. Microfracture surgery ended Spencer’s 2013 season after one game, and although he had a solid comeback season in 2014 (25 tackles, 17 pressures and a half-sack in 13 games). The Cowboys signing of Greg Hardy and their commitment to second-round pick DeMarcus Lawrence signaled a new direction for the defensive end rotation.
Under Ryan from 2011-12, Spencer enjoyed his best two-year stretch as a Cowboy with 17 sacks, including a career-high 11 in his Pro Bowl season. A 4-3 defensive end his last two years in Dallas, Spencer will likely switch back to outside linebacker in the Saints 3-4 scheme.
Spencer’s familiarity with Ryan’s system and the ability to play in multiple fronts should benefit the Saints, who have been looking to upgrade a disappointing front seven. Given that he’s on the downside of his career, Spencer likely came at a bargain price for a team in need of veteran pass rushers.
The Dallas Cowboys will travel to New Orleans during the 2015 regular season. The full regular-season schedule is expected to be released later this month.