Cowboys won't hurry use of franchise tag

IRVING, Texas -- Starting today teams can begin using the franchise tag, but do not expect the Cowboys to be in a hurry to place it on outside linebacker Anthony Spencer.

The deadline to use a franchise tag is March 5, eight days before free agency starts. In the meantime the Cowboys can talk to Spencer’s agents regarding an extension that would chew up less than the $8.8 million he would receive in 2012 as the franchise player or wait to see if potential free agent linebackers are tagged by their teams.

If the Cowboys use the designation, they would likely wait until the final moments, according to sources.

The Cowboys have used the franchise tag twice; on left tackle Flozell Adams in 2002 and safety Ken Hamlin in 2008.

There are similarities in the decision to tag Adams in 2002 and the one the Cowboys face this offseason with Spencer. At the time the Cowboys did not have a suitable replacement for Adams but were unsure whether he was worth signing to a long-term extension. He played the season out under the tag and Bill Parcells made Adams one of his priorities when he took over after that season. He went on to make the Pro Bowl five times from 2003-08.

Spencer, a first-round pick in 2007, has been solid but has never had more than six sacks in a season, however, the Cowboys do not have an in-house replacement ready. The free-agent market for outside linebackers is not considered strong.

If the Cowboys choose to tag Spencer, they would lose $8.8 million in cap space immediately but they could always rescind the tender and regain the space provided he did not sign. They could also make a trade, which would add that money back to the cap.