There's still at least two games left in the Cowboys season, but that doesn't mean it is too early to start thinking about which players from the team will be honored with Pro Bowl invitations this season.
Pro Football Focus is already doing that. The writers from the website grade and analyze every performance from every game and they've released their own take on the NFC Pro Bowl roster. Only one member of the Cowboys is on it and it probably isn't the one you were thinking of until you saw the headline to this post.
While you could make arguments of varying strength in favor of Tony Romo, DeMarcus Ware, Dez Bryant, Jason Witten and Brandon Carr, Anthony Spencer is the lone Cowboys representative on their list. It's fitting that a group trying to analyze the entirety of football games would notice that Spencer is deserving of the honors.
Spencer has turned in the finest season of his career while bucking for a lucrative, long-term contract from the Cowboys or someone else after the season. It's gotten a lot of notice because he has stepped up his pass rush numbers and currently has 10 sacks to his name, but that's not the reason why Spencer's deserving of a trip to Hawaii.
It's the overall game that makes Spencer a special player. He is the rare linebacker that is as comfortable stopping the run as he is covering receivers out of the backfield, a combination that makes it all the more impressive that he's also been an outstanding pass rusher this season. On a defense that keeps losing key players to injuries, Spencer keeps adding more to his plate without sacrificing anything in terms of productivity.
Which leads us back to that lucrative, long-term deal. The feeling heading into this season was that Spencer would play out the year on the franchise tag and then move on while the Cowboys replaced him in a linebacking corps that's been greatly improved by Bruce Carter's ascension to the starting lineup.
Three months can really change things. Spencer could still leave, but now it looks like the Cowboys have to at least consider franchising Spencer if they aren't able to lock him into a deal before the deadline to use the tag. The tag won't be cheap and neither would a new deal, but the Cowboys can't really afford to let Spencer leave for nothing after watching him almost carry the defense on his back over the last few weeks.
With big needs on the offensive line and at safety, it isn't ideal to tie up a ton of money at a position where you already have Ware but teams aren't always built in ideal situations. When Carter and Sean Lee are healthy, the Cowboys have one of the three or four best linebacking crews in the league and that's not something you willingly let fade away.
Spencer's spent the year proving his worth. We'll find out in a couple of months if it is a price the Cowboys are willing to pay.