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COLUMN

Anthony Spencer could be a good fit for Colts

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For more on the Colts, follow Reggie Hayes via Twitter at www.twitter.com/reggiehayes1.

Former Luers, Purdue standout is a free agent

Wednesday, February 13, 2013 - 5:22 am

Anthony Spencer would look good in an Indianapolis Colts uniform.

Granted, I'm a bit biased on this one. Spencer grew up in Fort Wayne, starred at Bishop Luers High School and Purdue University and gives back to Fort Wayne with a charitable organization and a football camp. He's a likeable, local guy.

He's also a big-time outside linebacker and a free agent.

Outside linebacker is a spot the Colts must bolster if – or more likely when – they part ways with Dwight Freeney. Spencer knows how to produce in the 3-4 defense, he's comfortable occasionally moving to defensive end and he has played opposite another big pass rusher, DeMarcus Ware. A combination of Robert Mathis on one side and Spencer on the other would bring some heat.

The Dallas Cowboys used their franchise tag on Spencer last season and he recorded a career-best 11 sacks and leading the team with 106 tackles. He earned a Pro Bowl selection.

So, yes, Spencer would be costly for the Colts to pursue, presuming he doesn't sign a new deal with the Cowboys before March 12 free agency hits.

This season, unlike last, the Colts have some substantial salary cap room to sign free agents. They need to bolster the offensive line and secondary, two of the likely key targeted spots. So those areas have more urgency than outside linebacker. But what if Spencer is the best-available free agent at any spot?

According to various reports from Dallas-based media outlets, Spencer will be looking for a contract in the range of $10 million-$12 million per year. That's a lot of dough no matter how you look at it.

Spencer is 29, in the prime of his career and coming off his best season.

Presuming the Colts decide not to bring back Freeney, their returning outside linebackers will be Mathis, Jerry Hughes and (insert draft pick here). The need will be there.

Spencer's agent, Jordan Woy, told the Dallas Morning News that Spencer would like to stay in Dallas, even though the Cowboys are switching to a 4-3 defense. Woy also said the NFL is “a business and sometimes that works out and sometimes it doesn't.”

In other words, sometimes teams are willing to pay and sometimes they aren't. The Cowboys could franchise Spencer again, but it would cost them $10.68 million this year and they're already over the salary cap.

Speculation is that Spencer might gather some interest from the New Orleans Saints, since his defensive coordinator Rob Ryan has changed locations. As we've seen with the Colts and Chuck Pagano, sometimes a familiar free agent helps in building a defense. Quality outside linebackers can be hard to find, so Spencer could attract attention from other teams. Spencer is also familiar with Wade Phillips in Houston.

Spencer is the type of available player that makes Colts general manager Ryan Grigson's job so tough.

Grigson has to balance need, players available and cost in trying to put together the best possible roster.

The defense needs to improve next season. But it would also be nice to get another dynamic playmaker on offense. I see where Mathis was actively campaigning on Twitter to pursue Percy Harvin, although he mentioned later he was encouraged to “muzzle my twitter fun” because of the comment.

Given the choice, and if the price is right, the Colts would be better off to upgrade the defensive playmakers. Andrew Luck, Reggie Wayne, T.Y. Hilton and others have the offense moving forward already.

Spencer is the type of outside linebacker that could thrive in the Colts' “build the monster” mode. He likely has five strong seasons left as a quarterback disrupter.

Spencer would look good in a Colts uniform, even if I didn't know where he grew up.

This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Reggie Hayes at rhayes@news-sentinel.com.