What if the Cowboys had let Anthony Spencer go?

We're going to play the "What If" game for a moment.

The Cowboys placed the franchise tag on Anthony Spencer, costing them $10.6 million. If the Cowboys had let Spencer test the free agent market, that's at least 10.6 million that could have gone to another free agent.

There's no telling how much Spencer would have gotten on the market, he would have been the best pass rusher out there coming off a career-high 11 sack season.

If the Cowboys had let Spencer walk there are two players who might have signed with the Cowboys. Dwight Freeney and Osi Umenyiora. Freeney left the Indianapolis Colts and signed a a two-year $8.7 million deal with the San Diego Chargers. Umenyiora left the New York Giants and inked a deal with the Atlanta Falcons for two years and $8.5 million.

Now Freeney and Umenyiora will be one-hit wonders for these teams, because veteran players, unless its a elite quarterback, will not receive big money deals in free agency.

It's easy to second-guess the decision to franchise Spencer. The Cowboys weren't confident enough in Sean Lissemore's abilities to take over at defensive end or move Tyrone Crawford there. The new defensive staff, led by defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin wants Crawford to play tackle and end in 2013. Kyle Wilber has also been moved to end.

The Cowboys bypassed three quality defensive linemen in the draft to keep the current defensive line intact.

But allowing Spencer to test the market it might have saved the Cowboys some money, and quite possibly, allowed them to get one of the top defensive ends in the NFL draft last month.

Of course, we're just speculating here on a Saturday afternoon, as Freeney and Umenyiora begin playing for new teams and Spencer continues to participate for the one who drafted him in 2007,

The biggest thing against Spencer is sacks. He finally came through on that last season, and now, barring a new contract getting completed, he enters the final year of his contract with the hope of putting up big numbers again.

If Spencer doesn't then you have to play the "What If" game again.