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Friday, January 3, 2014
Cowboys can't dismiss QB talk so easily

By Todd Archer

IRVING, Texas -- Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones has already said he will not be in the quarterback business when it comes to May's draft. For such a great salesman, Jones is sure missing a way to keep the Cowboys in the offseason headlines.

Orton
Romo
Saying no is easy to say in December and perhaps a way to show even more belief in Tony Romo, who is coming off back surgery. But Jones should not be so dismissive. He might be forced into doing it anyway.

To disappoint plenty of you, this will not delve into the merits of possibly going after Johnny Manziel, Blake Bortles or Brett Hundley or any other possible quarterback in the first round. This is solely about the current state of the position with the Cowboys.

Romo will be coming off of his second back surgery in eight months. He turns 34 in April. He is coming off one of his best seasons with 31 touchdown passes and 10 interceptions. He is signed through 2019 and scheduled to count $21.7 million against the cap. That figure will be reduced when the Cowboys restructure his contract, but at some point they will have to come to the conclusion he cannot last forever.

Kyle Orton showed in the season finale he can still play the game. He threw for 358 yards and had two touchdown passes in his first meaningful game in a long time. The fourth-quarter interception was bad, but Orton was better than many thought. He could start for a number of teams in the NFL. There's also a question of how much longer he wants to play.

"You just don't even think about that right now," Orton said at his locker after the Eagles' game. "Just a tough way to end the season ... All you think about right now is everything you put into it and you've got plenty of time to think about the future."

Orton counts $4.3775 million against the cap. That's $26 million of cap space committed to the quarterback position. The Cowboys will have decisions to make in order to trim enough money to get under the projected cap of $126.3 million.

Orton might prove to be too costly at his current price. He has a base salary of $3.25 million in 2014. The Cowboys could restructure his deal like they did in 2013, but that would push future dollars against the cap. If they cut Orton, the move would save almost $1 million.

It would also leave the Cowboys without a backup to Romo.

And this is where the draft comes into play, or at least a cheaper veteran option. The Cowboys have not gone cheap at the backup QB spot since Jason Garrett arrived. Brad Johnson wasn't cheap. Jon Kitna wasn't cheap. Orton has not been cheap.

The Cowboys looked at veteran options leading into Week 17, like David Carr, John Skelton and Tyler Thigpen, but went with Kitna because of his familiarity with the offense with such a short turnaround.

Maybe it's silly to move on from Orton with Romo coming off back surgery. It might be sillier not to start the process of finding the quarterback to succeed Romo eventually.