Dallas, which was penalized $5 million off its cap in both 2012 and 2013, could clear more space by releasing other players or reworking more deals, including that of quarterback Tony Romo.
The franchise tag for Spencer comes with the Cowboys switching from the 3-4 defense to the 4-3, which likely will mean a move to defensive end for Spencer after six years at outside linebacker.
The labor deal reached in 2011 specifies that players must be tagged under their primary position the previous season. Spencer is getting the non-exclusive tag, which puts his 2013 salary designation at $9.6 million if he doesn’t sign a long-term contract. He made $8.8 million with a one-year tender last season.
With the non-exclusive tag, teams have the right to match any offer sheet, or get two first-round draft picks in return for allowing a player to leave.
Spencer’s previous career high in sacks was six, reached twice. He appeared in all 16 games for three straight seasons from 2009-2011 before missing two games early last season with a strained pectoral muscle. He also had a career-high 55 tackles.