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Cowboys were prepared to move on from Anthony Spencer

IRVING, Texas -- Maybe Ben Gardner being issued No. 93 was a sign the Dallas Cowboys were moving on from Anthony Spencer.

Spencer signed with the New Orleans Saints on Friday, ending an eight-year run with the Cowboys. A first-round pick in 2007, Spencer was named to the Pro Bowl in 2012 after posting a career-high 11 sacks. The Cowboys used the franchise tag on him in 2012 and ’13, paying him $19.4 million. He finished his career with the Cowboys with 33 sacks and 497 tackles.

He played in just one game in 2013 because of a knee injury that required microfracture surgery. He missed the first three games last season as he continued to rehab, but he played in the final 13, finished with a half-sack, 25 tackles and 17 quarterback pressures.

In joining the Saints, Spencer will reunite with coordinator Rob Ryan, for whom he had his best season. He will also likely move back to an outside linebacker in the Saints’ 3-4 scheme.

Spencer was a solid player for the Cowboys but had the unenviable task of playing opposite DeMarcus Ware. His sack total was always compared to Ware’s, which was not fair, but Spencer was a solid run defender and a reliable player.

The Cowboys signed Greg Hardy in free agency and will give DeMarcus Lawrence a greater role in 2015. They also have Jeremy Mincey, who led the team in sacks last year with six, and will welcome back Gardner, who didn’t play as a rookie because of a shoulder injury. Plus there is the NFL draft, where the Cowboys could also take a defensive end early.

All of these players made Spencer replaceable.