for a fact nose tackle Jay Ratliff was taking a significant amount of snaps at left defensive end with the first team, too.
Oh, there were other guys out there in free agency, and certainly Cullen Jenkins comes to mind. But he's 32, and if you aren't going to financially value the position, then you had better get all the bang you can get for the buck. That's Spears.
'You just got to have those big, fast guys who can two-gap,' Cowboys Pro Bowl linebacker DeMarcus Ware said after learning of Spears' signing. 'Got to have those non-selfish guys.'
What he means is this: Spears has sacrificed his body, along with stats - which is another way of saying money - for the good of the Cowboys defense for the majority of the six years since he was the team's second first-round pick in 2005. He's the guy who jumps into gaps between guards and tackles or guards and centers or wherever else they ask him to jump, trying to hold down the fort while the linebackers swoop in to make tackles.
That's not conducive for making tackles or bagging sacks. Nor is being replaced on third downs when the Cowboys go to a four-man line.
There has been much media jabber out there since last offseason when Spears, Bowen and Hatcher were restricted free agents in the uncapped year. Well, the Cowboys worked the system, trying their best to secure their three defensive ends while spending the least amount of money. Since Spears was a former first-round pick, they tendered him at the lowest amount - original draft choice compensation ($1.226 million). That meant if the Cowboys didn't match another team's offer sheet Spears signed, they would get a first for him.
In the cases of Bowen and Hatcher, they were tendered at second-round compensation ($1.79 million). If tendered at the same level as Spears and someone signed them, then the Cowboys would have received nothing for the undrafted Bowen and a third for Hatcher. This was more of a statement on their pocket book than the players' talents, since Spears still ended up starting seven of the first eight games (opened in nickel in the other).
To me, Spears is a valuable asset.
To Bradie James, too.
'I'm great with that,' was Bradie's reaction to the signing. 'He knows the scheme, knows they system. I was rootin' for my boy,' a reference to being teammates at LSU in their college days.
You, too, should have been rootin' for re-signing Spears and for the Cowboys not to overspend in a pursuit of Asomugha. They have capable corners, last year notwithstanding. By getting Spears back in the fold and not breaking the bank, they can now still pursue a veteran safety. Hey, who knows, maybe Gerald Sensabaugh will be back, too. Haven't heard of anyone in hot pursuit of him just yet.
Wouldn't that be something.
'Nothin' surprises me anymore,' James said.
At the end of the day, me neither.