Cowboys Links: Anthony Spencer, Free Agents, and a Grade for Jason Witten
At NBC, I posted a breakdown of the Cowboys’ 2013 free agents.
OLB Victor Butler
Butler has been a personal favorite of mine for years because he’s been productive whenever he’s played. In the past three years, Butler has pressured the quarterback on 8.1 percent of his pass-rush snaps. That’s superior to Anthony Spencer (7.9 percent), but Butler simply hasn’t gotten the playing time necessary to make a huge impact. At 6’2’’ 245 pounds, Butler won’t be an option for Monte Kiffin.
- In or Out? OUT
DE Kenyon Coleman
In his two seasons in Dallas, Coleman has been an underrated player. On a per-snap basis, he recorded a tackle about 20 percent more often than Jay Ratliff. Time isn’t on Coleman’s side, however, and the Cowboys won’t re-sign the 33-year old.
- In or Out? OUT
Check it out at NBC.
I also posted a more focused look at why the ‘Boys should franchise Anthony Spencer.
I’ve written on Anthony Spencer quite a bit over the past year because he’s a rather interesting player. In the preseason, I showed why Spencer’s past sacks weren’t representative of his true talent, i.e. Spencer had been underachieving in terms of sack totals prior to 2012. It was easy to project Spencer for a career year, but the truth is that he actually overachieved this season. He’s not a long-term 11-sack player, and I even labeled Spencer as one of my players who might disappoint in 2013.
The truth is that Spencer is a really talented but not elite player opposite DeMarcus Ware. In terms of how often he has pressured the quarterback, the “true” Spencer is somewhere between the 11 sacks we saw in 2012 and the four sacks he averaged in his first five years in the league.
At Dallas News, I published Jason Witten’s 2012 grade.
The number everyone will remember is the 110 catches, but don’t forget that a lot of those receptions came in garbage time when defenses were playing soft. That’s reflected in Witten’s 9.4 yards-per-catch—the lowest mark in his career—and his 73.3 percent catch rate. Witten’s career catch rate is 70.6, but the average depth of Witten’s 150 targets in 2012 was so short that he was bound to catch a higher rate of passes. By the end of the year, the average length of Tony Romo’s throws to Witten was only 7.96 yards and Witten had only six targets (4.0 percent) of at least 20 yards.
That’s not to say Witten didn’t have a good year, because he did. The point is that Witten’s numbers were a bit inflated by game situations. For example, at one point during his career, Witten stayed in to block on nearly one-quarter of all of the Cowboys’ passing plays. In 2012, he was used in pass protection only 85 times—11.7 percent of his passing plays—meaning he was free to be used as a receiver more often. Witten gave up one sack in his 85 snaps in pass protection.
See more analysis and the grade at DMN.