Anthony Spencer Would Improve Patriots’ Pass Rush, But Other Defensive Needs Must Take Precedent

Anthony SpencerBill Belichick finally addressed the Patriots’ glaring pass rush deficiency in last year’s draft with the selection of defensive end Chandler Jones and linebacker Dont’a Hightower in the first round.

Jones (six sacks) and Hightower (four) helped add some pressure off the edge, along with the team’s sack leader Rob Ninkovich (eight), in 2012. But even with stellar efforts put forth by the three defensive stalwarts, the Patriots still only managed to finish in the middle of the pack (15th) league wide with 37 sacks on the season, meaning more help could be in the cards this offseason.

Dallas Cowboys linebacker Anthony Spencer is a premiere pass rusher with strong skills against the run, making him an enticing option for Belichick’s eye for well-rounded talent. Spencer also possesses the type of versatility Belichick values, playing both down on the line or standing up as a linebacker.

Through his first five NFL seasons, Spencer never exceeded 66 tackles or six sacks in a single season. Then, last season was a bit of a revelation. Spencer finally put his skill set together in 2012 with by far the best season of his career. He established some new personal bests with 95 tackles and 11 sacks for an otherwise underachieving — save DeMarcus Ware — Cowboys defense.

Now, his stock is at its highest as the 29-year-old defender prepares to hit free agency. The price tag for such a commodity could be pretty steep this offseason, too, as he’s one of the premier defenders on the market and arguably the best pass rusher available. But when considering the Patriots’ finances and needs this offseason, a high-priced rusher might not be the best fit.

Spencer would certainly add value in New England, creating more consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks. His size (6-foot-3, 250 pounds) and strength would be valuable assets for Belichick and the Patriots’ defensive staff, but there is just no real rationale to substantiate such a deal.

Even more than a premier pass rusher, the Patriots have glaring needs to address this offseason. Finding help in the secondary, especially with Alfonzo Dennard‘s status in question, and a solid coverage linebacker, where Spencer struggles anyhow, will be the major defensive keys.

Sure, Spencer would be a welcome addition in New England, but with Jones and Ninkovich in tow the Patriots aren’t exactly in dire straits. So, while the signing would be something of a dream for Patriots fans, the likelihood of such an addition may be more of a fairy tale.

Have a question for Luke Hughes? Send it to him via Twitter at @LukeFHughes or send it here.

Other Free Agent possibilities: Gosder Cherilus; Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie; Danny Amendola

Photo via Facebook/ESPN Dallas

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