Dallas Cowboys: brandon weeden

Dallas Cowboys' projected roster

July, 18, 2014
Jul 18
11:00
AM ET
IRVING, Texas -- Examining the Dallas Cowboys' roster:

QUARTERBACKS (2)

The Kyle Orton watch is over now that the Cowboys released the veteran backup. The timing of it is a surprise, and Jason Garrett spoke optimistically all offseason about Orton’s return. Now the Cowboys turn their attention to Weeden as Romo’s backup. Weeden had a productive spring, running the first-team offense as Romo recovered from back surgery. The Cowboys haven’t kept a third quarterback since 2011, and Caleb Hanie and Dustin Vaughan will have work to do to crack the 53-man roster

RUNNING BACKS (4)


The last two spots could be up in the air. Randle, a fifth-round choice, will be pushed by free-agent pickup Ryan Williams in the preseason. Williams, a former second-round pick, was not able to stay healthy in Arizona. The Cowboys have given him a chance to win a backup job. Clutts did a nice job as a late-season pickup in 2013. He is more versatile than undrafted rookie J.C. Copeland, but I don’t think having a fullback on the 53-man roster is set in stone.

WIDE RECEIVERS (5)


I debated whether to go with a sixth, but later on you will see why I stuck with five. It is possible the Cowboys will look for a veteran in the final cuts if they feel limited by their depth because of injury, but I think they like the overall group. They will work their No. 3 receiver role on a rotation basis, but Beasley could emerge as a bigger threat on third down. There will be a lot of eyes on Williams, who takes over the No. 2 role on a full-time basis. Bryant is set for another Pro Bowl-type season.

TIGHT ENDS (3)


Witten remains near the top of the game at his position. His total catches were down last year, but his touchdowns were up. Escobar’s role figures to expand, especially as a No. 3-type receiver. Hanna has the inside track on the third spot, but I have a feeling the Cowboys will be looking for more of a traditional blocker, especially if they want to get away from the fullback spot to open up a role elsewhere.

OFFENSIVE LINE (9)

The top six are set, with Bernadeau or Leary fighting it out for the left guard position and the loser becoming the top backup on the interior. Parnell is in the final year of his deal, and if Weems develops, I wonder if the Cowboys would look for a trading partner. They have invested a lot in Parnell in time and money for him to be a backup, so it would be a risk, but perhaps one worth taking. Weems had a decent offseason. Clarke gets the nod as the No. 9 guy right now, but veteran Uche Nwaneri could work his way into the mix.

DEFENSIVE LINE (10)

I think the Cowboys will go heavy here, especially considering what happened last year and the numbers they have thrown at the position this year. Four of them are rookies -- Lawrence, Gardner, Bishop and Coleman. I believe Anthony Spencer and possibly Amobi Okoye will start the year on the physically unable to perform list, so they don’t make this 53-man roster with the idea that they join the team after the sixth game of the season. Wilson garnered the last spot over a 2013 starter, Nick Hayden, but there will be a few players in the mix for the final few spots, including Ben Bass.

LINEBACKER (7)

Carrying seven linebackers might be a little heavy, but I have special teams in mind when it comes to Will Smith. He benefits from having only two quarterbacks on the 53-man roster. The Cowboys spent the offseason telling us games are won and lost up front, so carrying an extra offensive or defensive linemen could get in this mix as well. McClain gets a spot only because of his experience. Backups of Holloman, Hitchens and Smith would be tough considering their youth, and I can see the Cowboys looking for veteran backup help around the final cut dates.

CORNERBACK (5)


Carr and Claiborne have to play exceptionally well for this defense to have a chance, and they might have to do it without much help from a consistent pass rush. Scandrick is coming off his best season, and Claiborne will have to beat him out to reclaim the starting spot. Moore can play inside and out. Mitchell showed in his limited offseason work that he can make plays. Last year’s fourth-round pick, B.W. Webb, will have to fight for a spot. Based on his offseason work, he did not make the cut for this roster.

SAFETY (5)

Church is the only player without questions. The Cowboys are projecting the other four with their biggest bet on Wilcox. He enters camp as the starter, but he could be pushed by Heath and Hamilton. Dixon will be more of a special-teams threat if he is to make the roster. Hamilton showed some playmaking in the offseason. No Matt Johnson? Not right now, especially after he couldn’t practice -- again -- for most of the offseason.

SPECIALISTS (3)


Perhaps Cody Mandell can push Jones, but Jones is the more consistent punter and has a good rapport as a holder for Bailey. Ladouceur remains one of the best long-snappers in the game. This group won’t change during the summer unless there is an injury.

Chat recap: Re-thinking QB position

July, 17, 2014
Jul 17
2:00
PM ET
IRVING, Texas – In our weekly chat on Wednesday, we touched on a number of subjects, including the recently released Kyle Orton.

We also discussed:


To read the full chat, click here.

But I wanted to delve a little deeper into one subject from the chat and that’s Johnny Manziel. Wait, who? I kid. Here’s what I was asked:
Steve (Tyler, Tx): Any second thoughts on passing on Manziel now that Kyle Orton has retired?

Todd Archer: I was waiting for this question. It's an interesting scenario isn't it? Well, first off, Orton didn't retire. He was cut. Now, I believe he wanted to retire but was going to show up to camp so he didn't have to pay back bonus money. But that's splitting hairs. Let's say the Cowboys did this back before the draft. Wouldn't their philosophy have been different regarding the quarterback? I believe so. I don't think they regret not taking Manziel because we're using hindsight of what we know now and not what we knew then.

After the Cowboys took Zack Martin in the first round, Jerry Jones said the Cowboys really spent no time talking about taking Manziel with the 16th pick in the first round. A little later in the offseason, Jones said the Cowboys seriously considered it. So Jones kind of covered the bases with those answers.

Had the Cowboys made the move with Orton before the draft, I believe Manziel would have been more of a consideration. Remember, they had not seen much from Brandon Weeden before the draft. The organized team activities had not started by that time.

The drama that Manziel would have brought to the Cowboys would have been overwhelming, but I don’t think the Cowboys – or any team – should act in fear of what might happen off the field with fans’ reactions or media interpretations. I think they did the right thing in taking Martin from a football perspective. He makes the offense better in 2014 and potentially the defense better in 2014. Manziel likely wouldn’t have made either better in 2014. Maybe not in 2015, either.

Would I have felt differently if Orton were gone by then? Perhaps. I think Manziel will be an excellent quarterback.

If Orton was gone by May and if the Cowboys passed on Manziel, then I believe they would have adjusted their thinking about drafting a quarterback at all. The position wasn’t discussed much during the draft. But the guy I think they would have taken in the middle rounds if he was available: Tom Savage.

Savage went to the Houston Texans in the fourth round. Why Savage? One of the reasons why they liked Devin Street so much was the fact that he played in a pro-style offense at Pitt. Savage was his quarterback. Savage was the quarterback when the Cowboys ran Street through a private workout. Jason Garrett has a close relationship with Pitt coach Paul Chryst.

Strong offseason fueling Brandon Weeden

July, 17, 2014
Jul 17
11:05
AM ET
IRVING, Texas – Brandon Weeden's bid to be the Dallas Cowboys’ No. 2 quarterback in 2014 got a lot easier when the club decided to release Kyle Orton.

Weeden
Barring something unforeseen, Weeden, who signed a two-year deal in the offseason, will be Tony Romo’s backup. But Weeden does not look at the move as “weight off my shoulders.”

“Given the situation Kyle has been in in previous years in Dallas, he’s been the backup quarterback, so I think if he was there it would be one more obstacle I would have to kind of hurdle,” Weeden said. “But at the same time I can’t really get wrapped up in putting all of my attention on that. I need to do what I did in the [organized team activities] and continue to play well and get better. I think hopefully things will work out that way regardless.”

The Cowboys felt confident enough to jettison Orton, who skipped the entire offseason program and minicamp, in part because of what Weeden did in the spring. With Romo recovering from back surgery and being kept out of competitive drills and Orton missing, Weeden took all of the first-team snaps.

“I think the reps I got in the OTAs were kind of irreplaceable,” Weeden said. “If I was in a situation where God forbid something happened to Tony and I’m asked to play, those are the guys I’m going to battle with, so those reps I got were invaluable. I know I won’t get many of those in [training] camp, but fortunately I had 12 practices where I was able to get out with those guys. Now it’s, ‘Let’s get to work.’ I’m ready to get to California and get things rolling.”

Orton had the same benefit last year of taking all of the offseason snaps in 2013 as Romo recovered from surgery to remove a cyst from his back. When Romo hurt his back in Week 16 against the Washington Redskins, he was able to step into the season finale against the Philadelphia Eagles and play well. He completed 30 of 46 passes for 358 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions, but a late turnover sealed the Cowboys’ loss.

“[Gavin] Escobar and [Jason] Witten are two totally different players. Dez [Bryant] and Terrance [Williams] are two totally different players,” Weeden said. “You kind of learn what certain guys’ strengths are and little nuances of what they do. That’s the thing more than anything. You kind of get a feel for what Dez likes on fades and all that stuff a certain way where Terrance might like it another way. You’ve got to learn what each guy likes. When you’re with so many new guys it takes time. You always want more time, but it’s nice to have the reps I did get there to get a head start.”
With the start of training camp coming next week, we review the five biggest position battles with the Dallas Cowboys.

Backup quarterback

The favorite: Kyle Orton

The contenders: Brandon Weeden and Caleb Hanie

Orton
Outlook: Orton missed the entire offseason contemplating retirement. The Cowboys took a wait-and-see approach with Orton, with coach Jason Garrett citing the collective bargaining agreement, to deal with the veteran. The status of this position is unsettled because while Orton is 35-35 as a starter, he’s still one of the better backups in the NFL. Orton played well in the regular-season finale for an injured Tony Romo last season. But if Orton is out of the picture, it means Weeden (5-15 as a starter) becomes Romo’s backup. With Romo rehabbing his back, Weeden received all the snaps in the offseason with the first team and developed a chemistry and better understanding of the new wrinkles of the offense with new playcaller Scott Linehan.

Who wins?: The Cowboys could cut, fine and even ask for previous signing-bonus money back from Orton if he refuses to report to training camp. There are no winners here because Orton, somewhere along the way, lost his desire to play and doesn’t want to be around, and the Cowboys have to depend on Weeden to support a starting quarterback coming off a second back surgery.
Constructing a 53-man roster is a difficult process, piecing together 10 positions groups and matching up present needs with future production of older and younger players. This week we take a look at constructing the Cowboys’ roster.

Quarterbacks

On the roster: Tony Romo, Kyle Orton, Brandon Weeden, Caleb Hanie, Dustin Vaughan

Locks: Romo, Orton

Virtual lock: Weeden

Need help: Hanie, Vaughan

How many fit? The Cowboys have kept three quarterbacks before, but not since they had Stephen McGee around in 2011. I believe they carry three again in 2014.

They have carried just Romo and Orton on the 53-man roster the last two seasons with Alex Tanney spending some time on the practice squad last season before he was poached by the Cleveland Browns.

Some might be surprised to see Orton is a lock after he skipped the entire offseason, which could cost him about $150,000 in fines and a de-escalator, but the Cowboys have consistently said they value him. If he doesn’t show up to training camp, then he faces big-money fines, so for that reason I believe he shows up to Oxnard, California.

The Cowboys have invested little money in Weeden, but they have invested time this offseason with him taking the first-team snaps since Romo is recovering from back surgery and Orton is missing. They like Weeden enough to want to continue to develop him. He appears to be the 2015 backup right now, but injuries at other spots -- or poor play in the preseason games -- could mean the Cowboys go with two quarterbacks for the third straight season.

Getting snaps for five quarterbacks in the summer is impossible so it’s likely Hanie or Vaughan will be let go if/when Orton shows up to camp. Hanie had some positive moments in his work over the spring. Vaughan has a big arm and could be a developmental player.

Cowboys Twitter mailbag, Part 2

July, 5, 2014
Jul 5
12:00
PM ET
IRVING, Texas -- Part 2 of the Dallas Cowboys' Twitter mailbag is ready.

In it we discuss:
  • How Henry Melton kicks in the option of his contract.
  • How many tight ends the Cowboys keep.
  • Who starts at linebacker?
  • The hypothetical to end all hypotheticals.

If you want to read Part 1, click here.

Away we go:

@toddarcher: There is not a magic number necessarily, but if Melton matches his career high of seven sacks, the Cowboys will pick up the final three years, which guarantees him $9 million in 2015. Melton will be the key to this defense. He is the lone known true playmaker on the defensive line. I don't think you can count on another seven-sack season from George Selvie. The others all have something to prove. Melton has the most talent, but he's coming off a torn anterior cruciate ligament. For some players it takes a little more time to come back from that injury, but from all accounts Melton's rehab has gone well and he will be on the field to open training camp. The tough call will be whether the Cowboys pick up the option if he has a four- or five-sack season. Would it be worth it to kick in the final three years of the deal if he's just OK? That could be a tough call.

@toddarcher: They kept four tight ends last season for a spell when they had five receivers. I think the spot comes down to a fourth tight end or a fullback. I know there are a lot of people who love the fullback. Tyler Clutts did a nice job late last season, but I'm not one of those who believe the fullback is necessary. Another factor in how many players are kept at certain positions this year will be quarterback. If Kyle Orton comes back and the Cowboys keep him, then they will keep three quarterbacks for the first time in a couple of years. That chews into a roster spot somewhere else as well. But back to the tight ends: I think they need to get a blocking-type in their top-three, so that would put James Hanna on the bubble. I like Hanna, but I want to see the coaches use his abilities. In his two seasonss, they have yet to get him in space to use that speed.

@toddarcher: To me, it's Bruce Carter, Justin Durant and Kyle Wilber. I'm not even sure I can put Rolando McClain on the active roster if I had to do a 53-man breakdown today. Too many questions there. Carter is the clear front-runner at the Will. He did a better job later in the offseason. Durant has the most experience at the Mike, and that is not even that much. But he can be serviceable. Wilber played well last season and carried that over to the spring. He might be their best find, because moving him from defensive end to the Sam last season was really a move of desperation and it worked. I suppose DeVonte Holloman could push his way into the mix at Mike or Sam, but as of today, I'm going with the aforementioned three.

@toddarcher: Unlike Jason Garrett, I will answer a hypothetical even if it does me no good. Under this scenario, I see the Cowboys as a 6-10 team. I'm going on the premise that they get off to a decent start with Tony Romo. And if they want to make the playoffs, they have to get off to a decent start. So let's call a decent start as 3-3. I can see them winning another three -- just don't ask me which games -- because the schedule is tough down the stretch. The last part of the question -- Garrett remaining as coach -- is tough to say. Remember, he got the interim job with Romo hurt and went 5-3. Now he could end his job with Romo hurt. If the Cowboys play hard for him, which they have done, and they are in the games, which they have done, then I could see a chance of him returning in 2015. That doesn't mean it would happen. I'm on record saying Garrett has to make the playoffs to be back in 2015. Man, I hate hypothetical questions. Now I know why coaches don't answer them. But don't worry, we'll still ask them.

.

IRVING, Texas – Most of the time when Kyle Orton’s absence was discussed in the offseason, Brandon Weeden was mentioned as the biggest beneficiary.

Hanie
While true, Caleb Hanie also benefited.

With Orton staying away, the Dallas Cowboys had to sign Hanie, a Forney, Texas, native. With Orton skipping all of the organized team activities and mandatory June minicamp and Tony Romo staying out of competitive drills, Hanie took most of the backup snaps behind Weeden.

“He knows how to play,” coach Jason Garrett said. “That’s one of the things we were attracted to when we signed him in the spring. Get a guy in here who can handle the huddle and handle situations at the line of scrimmage. He’s seen defenses in this league. He’s started games. He’s been in playoff games.”

He has a 0-4 record as a starter he completed 59 of 116 passes for 679 yards with three touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He has not thrown a pass in a regular-season game since 2011 and spent parts of the past two seasons with the Denver Broncos, Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns.

The Cowboys struck out on their first attempt to sign Hanie. In 2008, he chose to sign with the Chicago Bears as an undrafted free agent, despite a full-court press from the Cowboys.

“I felt it was a better opportunity for me in Chicago with the guys they had up there,” Hanie said. “At the time Tony was planted as the starter and I think Brad Johnson was on the roster then. It would’ve been a little uphill battle for me to get on the roster. It was tough turning them down, I can tell you that much, being the hometown team.”

Last December Hanie was among a handful of quarterbacks the Cowboys worked out after Romo got hurt. They eventually signed Jon Kitna for the final week of the season.

In April, Hanie and the Cowboys finally got together.

“It’s kind of come full circle now,” he said.

The Cowboys expect Orton to show up at training camp, but they also expected him to show up for the minicamp. The fines for skipping training camp practices are much more severe ($30,000 per day).

“If he’s here, I’ll notice,” Hanie said. “If he’s not, I don’t worry about that. I just worry about what I can do and control and see how it goes from here.”

Hanie had some solid moments in the offseason. He connected on a touchdown with Cole Beasley in the slot, splitting the cornerback and linebacker on a throw to the slot. Hanie pumped his fist as he went to the sideline.

“I think it’s gone well,” Hanie said. “Obviously you want to be perfect in everything you do, every check and throw and with 100 percent accuracy, but it’s just not realistic sometimes. You’ve just got to let things go and try to improve every way you can and take as much coaching as you can while you have the opportunity.”
The backup quarterback, or who we think should be the backup quarterback for Dallas Cowboys is missing.

Kyle Orton is thinking of retirement.

Weeden
Team officials anticipated Orton coming to the voluntary offseason workouts. Didn't happen.

Then team officials said Orton was expected to show up for the mandatory three-day minicamp last week. Didn't happen.

Coach Jason Garrett, who shares the same agent as Orton, anticipates him coming to training camp in late July.

Will it happen?

It appears doubtful because Orton wants to retire. He doesn't care about the amount of money, nearly $3.2 million in base salary that will be lost.

All the fines and signing bonus money the team wants back, it most likely won't happen. They can ask, but it doesn't mean they're going to get it. The fine money the team gets is from the base salary. If there's no base salary then there's, in reality, no fine money.

In terms of the signing bonus money the Cowboys want back, it's from the 2012 and 2013 seasons. How could they get that money back?

Orton participated in those seasons already, including in the regular-season finale with Tony Romo out with a back surgery.

So this leaves the Cowboys with a 30-year old as the backup quarterback to Romo in Brandon Weeden.

He spent two seasons with the Cleveland Browns and went 5-15. It seemed the Browns were going through a transitional phase every minute and after two seasons, Weeden and new general manager Ray Farmer agreed it was time to part ways.

Weeden said there are no hard feelings with the departure from Cleveland and if anything, playing in Dallas is a fresh start for him.

"Those scars have healed," Weeden said. "I'm good. I don't worry about it. I enjoyed my two years, met some good buddies, I've moved on and I'm excited to be here and excited for the opportunity."

What the Cowboys lost in Orton, a veteran with 70 starts on his résumé, is someone who gives the team a better chance to win a game than Weeden.

Yet, that doesn't mean Weeden can't win a game in the NFL.

If the Cowboys plan on increasing the running attack in 2014, then DeMarco Murray should thrive if Weeden plays.

Dez Bryant knows Weeden well from their days at Oklahoma State. Weeden said Bryant has improved as a route runner from his days in college.

There is a chemistry building this offseason between Weeden and the offense because he received the first-team reps in the offseason workouts as Romo rehabbed his back injury and Orton stayed away.

"But that's not why I go out here every day," Weeden said. "I go out here every day to get better and build on what I have done the last two years. It's not about saying I'm going to be the backup. That takes care of itself. If you play well and you prove to guys around you and the coaching staff, things will fall into place. That's my main focus."

Kyle Orton's agent visits Valley Ranch

June, 20, 2014
Jun 20
12:50
PM ET
IRVING, Texas -- David Dunn, the agent for Cowboys backup quarterback Kyle Orton, visited Valley Ranch this week. Although he declined comment regarding his client, there appears to be no movement on whether Orton will come to training camp.

Orton missed all of offseason workouts and was subjected to fines totaling close to $70,000. Orton is thinking of retirement and that’s been known since the 2013 season ended.

Backup quarterback Brandon Weeden said he heard about Orton's desire to retire before signing with the Cowboys this spring.

During the NFL owners meetings, Dunn said Orton would report to offseason workouts but that hasn't occurred.

“We'll make contact with him and his representatives and we anticipate him being at training camp,” coach Jason Garrett said. “Communication is a big part of that situation and trying to understand why he wasn't here and taking the necessary steps you try and look at a guy's body of work.”

Orton is a valued player on the roster, yet his lack of commitment to the 2014 season has raised doubts about whether he's worth keeping around.

Cowboys officials will do what they can, meaning fine Orton based on the terms of the collective bargaining agreement. If Orton files retirement paperwork with the league, the Cowboys could ask for signing bonus money back ($3.4 million).

With Orton missing the offseason workouts, Brandon Weeden moved to No. 2 on the depth chart.

Minicamp observations: Hamilton shines

June, 19, 2014
Jun 19
5:00
PM ET
ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys concluded their final minicamp practice Thursday at AT&T Stadium with a lunch for the players and coaches’ families, but the 90-minute session had some highlights worth noting.
  • Safety Jakar Hamilton came up with a nice interception after linebacker Anthony Hitchens deflected a Dustin Vaughan throw down the seam to wide receiver Devin Street. Hamilton instinctively stuck one hand in the air and then corralled the ball as he turned up field. Hamilton later did a nice job being in position to force an off-target throw to Dez Bryant in the slot.
  • Bryant
    Bryant
    From our vantage point it was hard to tell if Bryant was able to get his feet down for a touchdown catch on a fade pass from Brandon Weeden over Morris Claiborne, but it was an impressive athletic feat. Jason Witten might have had a TD catch from Weeden in seven-on-seven drills over safety J.J. Wilcox, but the replay officials might have overturned it with one foot appearing out of bounds.
  • Left tackle Tyron Smith sealed off the edge to allow running back Lance Dunbar to scamper in for a touchdown run in the red zone. Dunbar had a touchdown run with the second-team offense in a two-minute situation.
  • Rookie punter Cody Mandell scraped the center-hung digital board three times during special teams’ drills. He did the same when he played in Arlington while at Alabama. On Thursday, however, Jason Garrett said the board was lower than its normal 90 feet. The board was lowered for a recent George Strait concert.
  • Quarterback Caleb Hanie was sharp in his situational work, completing four of his five passes, including a nice corner route to Street for a decent gain. One of Dunbar’s touchdowns was set up by a pass interference penalty on Terrance Mitchell, who was covering Street.
  • Linebacker Orie Lemon did a nice job breaking up a goal-line throw to tight end Gavin Escobar in seven-on-seven work with the second team. Weeden was able to complete the same route to James Hanna in the first-team work with a nice fastball.
IRVING, Texas -- Let's start the final day of the Dallas Cowboys' minicamp with some observations from Wednesday's team and 7-on-7 drills.
  • All eyes will be on Bruce Carter this season. If he can cover the way he did in this session, then he will be greatly improved over 2013. He blanketed Jason Witten on a corner route in the end zone, forcing an incompletion when Brandon Weeden's pass wasn't perfect. He also intercepted Weeden at the goal line, reading the quarterback's eyes as he tried to fire a pass low. After the play defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli challenged Carter by saying, "Do it again."
  • Weeden's best throw came on the first play of 7-on-7 drills when he put just enough air and just enough speed on a throw over safety J.J. Wilcox to wide receiver Terrance Williams by the goal posts. Williams was able to make the athletic grab and get both feet down for the touchdown.
  • Tempers flared when center Travis Frederick and defensive end Tyrone Crawford got into a scuffle. Rookie guard Zack Martin lost his helmet in the fracas.
  • Crawford had an active practice, but DeMarcus Lawrence also performed well hours after signing his first contract. He trapped Lance Dunbar on a shotgun run versus the first team. To close the day he drew a holding penalty on Darrion Weems and had a would-be sack of Vaughan.
  • Rookie cornerback Terrance Mitchell has wasted little time making a good impression. He had an interception of Caleb Hanie on a slant, forced a fumble that went out of bounds and broke up a Dustin Vaughan pass to LaRon Byrd.
  • The defense had some poor situational football on a fourth-and-long play. Tight end Gavin Escobar was able to come up with a first-down on a seam route with the linebackers and safety getting separated in their coverages.
  • Rookie safety Ahmad Dixon ended practice with an interception on a Vaughan overthrow of tight end James Hanna. Dixon sprinted up the field but heard the coaches and teammates yelling for him to get down because the turnover ended the game. No need to risk a return and have something bad happening.

Tony Romo's anxiousness grows greater

June, 17, 2014
Jun 17
5:00
PM ET
IRVING, Texas -- How much does Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo want to practice during this week’s minicamp? He went so far as to snag Caleb Hanie’s practice jersey and sneak into the huddle during Tuesday’s practice.

“It was pretty obvious that the jersey was a little snug on him,” coach Jason Garrett said. “That’s when I looked and said, ‘Get him out of the huddle.’ He’s a competitive guy. He wants to play. He wants to be out there. We have the conversation every morning about how many reps he’s going to get and the answer is the same. We’re going to get through the minicamp. He’s going to continue to do what he’s been doing, do the walkthrough-type stuff, do the individual work and then once we get to training camp we think he’s going to be more ready to go.”

Romo
The Cowboys have followed the plan that was laid out after Romo underwent a discectomy last December, his second back surgery in less than 12 months. They report to Oxnard, California, for training camp on July 22 and will have their first practice July 24.

“We won’t run him up the middle drill several times,” owner and general manager Jerry Jones said, “but other than that he should be ready to do the things you’d expect him to do.”

Even though Romo has not taken a snap with the team in competitive drills, he believes the offseason has been a success. Last year Romo missed the entire offseason after having a cyst removed from his back and took part in every training camp practice.

He arrived in Southern California last summer before the Cowboys to work on his conditioning. Jones said Romo spent time, “uniquely running mountains.” Romo said he would probably go through a similar pre-training camp before reporting to camp.

“Miles ahead of last year,” Romo said of his conditioning. “I don’t think they’re comparable. I think last year I was just starting around this point so this year I’ve had whatever [number of] months to kind of get myself into feeling like I can go. Now it’s going to be more perfecting as opposed to just trying to hammer everything out in four weeks, three weeks.”
IRVING, Texas -- Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones is not pleased backup quarterback Kyle Orton is missing this week’s mandatory minicamp, but he is taking a broader view of the quarterback situation.

Orton
“Well, I think candidly the way I look at it is it has really given us an opportunity, which we really needed to do, and that’s evaluate young quarterbacks or quarterbacks that might could fit in the picture for several years to come,” Jones said. “So I think that’s going to give us a chance to do that.”

Brandon Weeden has taken the first-team snaps the entire offseason with starter Tony Romo limited by December back surgery and Orton’s absence, and he has impressed the coaches and front office with his work.

But is it enough to where the Cowboys would feel comfortable with him as Romo’s backup and not the more tested Orton?

SportsNation

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Jones would not discuss whether the Cowboys have told Orton’s agent that the team does not plan to cut the quarterback. If the Cowboys cut him, then they would not be able to recoup $3.4 million in signing bonus money. If Orton retires, then he would have to repay the Cowboys the bonus money from the deal he signed in 2012.

Jones said he has not had direct conversations with Orton, but the team has spoken with Orton’s agent, David Dunn, who also represents head coach Jason Garrett and passing game coordinator Scott Linehan.

Orton missed Monday’s physical, which subjects him to a fine of $10,930. By missing Tuesday’s workout he could be fined $11,575. If he misses all three days, then he would be fined $69,455. If he doesn’t show up for training camp, then he would be fined $30,000 for each day he misses. A $75,000 de-escalator has already kicked in Orton's contract for missing the workouts. With the fines and de-escalator, Orton's $3.25 million base salary would be reduced to $3.09 million if he plays.

“The bottom line is we’re just playing this as we move along on a day-to-day, week-to-week basis,” Jones said.

It has turned into a game of chicken between the sides. The next deadline comes when the Cowboys travel to Oxnard, California, for training camp on July 22. According to the collective bargaining agreement, if Orton misses the first six days of training camp, he would have to forfeit up to 15 percent of his yearly signing bonus proration. After six days, he would forfeit 1 percent of the proration for each day, maxing out at 25 percent. There are further penalties if he continues to sit into the regular season.

“As you know this game is for sure one thing, and that is when somebody is not here, somebody else steps up,” Jones said, “and that’s what we’ll be doing with our roster.”

Cowboys' Twitter mailbag, Part 2

June, 14, 2014
Jun 14
12:00
PM ET
IRVING, Texas -- Part 2 of the Dallas Cowboys' Twitter mailbag is ready.

In it we discuss:

• When the Cowboys might draft a successor to Tony Romo
• Dead money in 2015
• Special teams' job opportunities
• Can the Cowboys be the Mavericks?
Brandon Carr's contract

If you want to see Part 1, click here.

Away we go:
@toddarcher: If Romo remains healthy and plays well, then I think you'll see it happen in 2016. The Cowboys are all-in on Romo. They said as much when they skipped on taking Johnny Manziel. They don't believe in drafting a developmental quarterback, in part because you might be developing him for another team and, truthfully, quarterbacks taken in Rounds 3-7 hardly ever pan out. For every Russell Wilson or Tom Brady, there is a ton more guys like Mike Teel and Stephen McGee. Now, if Romo cannot make it through the season healthy, then I can see the Cowboys going after a quarterback early in 2015. Kyle Orton may or may not play here in 2014, but he is out of a contract in 2015. Brandon Weeden is doing some nice things right now, but I don't think they view him as a potential starter down the road. If you're looking for a franchise quarterback, the odds say take him early. I believe when the Cowboys are ready to move on from Romo, that's when they start to look.

@toddarcher: I wrote about this a few months ago. In Miles Austin, Orton and possibly Doug Free, you're looking at about $11.3 million in dead money in 2015. Austin was a June 1 cut this year, which pushed money into next year's cap. Orton has two voidable years left on his deal that will come forward. Free also has two voidable years left, but the Cowboys might try to extend his deal, which would take away that dead money. The Cowboys have done a good job of cleaning up their cap the past couple of years and will be in good shape in 2015 and excellent shape in 2016. But that doesn't mean they will go crazy in free agency spending money on players they don't know. I really think they have learned their lesson that they don't get their money's worth.

@toddarcher: Cody Mandell will have a chance, but I think he'll clearly have to beat out Chris Jones over the summer. He didn't do it in the organized team activities. For some reason it takes young punters time to get accustomed to the NFL game. Maybe it's the directional kicking that is more prevalent. Jones has a strong leg. Left-footed punters can be tricky for returners because of the spin on the ball. He's also a good holder, and that's important for Dan Bailey. The Cowboys' special teams were good last year. I don't see any changeover from the specialists unless Mandell knocks out the champ, so to speak.

@toddarcher: I'm not sure which way I should take this. If you mean the Cowboys will be the last wild-card team, then I can see that happening, but until I see more visual evidence in training camp, I'm sticking with 8-8 and missing the playoffs. If you mean, the Cowboys' offense will have to carry the day, then, yes, I'd say true. There are just too many questions on defense to expect anything great. The offense, however, has the tools necessary to be one of the best in the league. Maybe I'm too optimistic on this, but I think Scott Linehan will be really good. I think he'll be more aggressive than Jason Garrett or Bill Callahan. I think he will devise ways for Dez Bryant and Jason Witten to beat double teams. All that being said, if the defense can't be at least a little better and get into the low 20s in rankings, then I don't think the Cowboys will make the playoffs.

@toddarcher: He is guaranteed $1 million this year now that he has been on the roster the first day of the league year. That's the last of the guaranteed money. Yes, he will be gone if he doesn't play well this season. If the Cowboys were to cut him in 2015, they would save only roughly $550,000. If they made him a June 1 cut, then it would free up $8 million in space in 2015, but Carr would count $7.4 million against the cap in 2016. To me, it would be better to not spread the hit over two years even though there wouldn't be much savings. I'll give Carr credit for how he has approached this offseason. He knows it is a big one for him. He has changed his approach to the offseason and dropped some weight in hopes of being faster. If he plays solidly, like he did in 2012, then maybe the Cowboys approach him with a pay cut. If he plays great, then I think you might see them restructure the deal potentially to open up cap room. 

OTA observations: Pump up the volume

June, 10, 2014
Jun 10
5:49
PM ET
IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys pumped up the volume at Tuesday's organized team activity, playing music throughout the workout, ranging from Run DMC to heavy metal.

Coach Jason Garrett said he has used music in past OTAs in 2-minute situations, but this was the first practice in which the music played almost through the entire practice.

"It puts you in the game," passing game coordinator Scott Linehan said. "You've got to communicate in the game. It's not always perfect. When you're out here in the spacious practice facility with nobody yelling or screaming at you it's like golf. You don't have to worry or think about distractions. You've got to learn how to play when you've got 100,000 people screaming down your neck and doing it without letting it bother you, so I think it's really good work."

On to some more observations:
  • Linehan said Brandon Weeden has had his best week of practice. With Tony Romo sitting and Kyle Orton absent, Caleb Hanie had his best day in the sessions open to the media. He completed all but two of his throws in team drills and one was a throwaway while he was under pressure. He connected with Devin Street near the sideline, putting the ball on a dime to where Street could keep his feet inbounds.
  • Weeden's best throw was a play-action dig to wide receiver Terrance Williams, putting the ball just a little low to keep it away from cornerback Orlando Scandrick, who was trailing on the play.
  • The timing Romo and Jason Witten have is almost always impeccable. You can see the small difference when Romo isn't in there. Weeden was unable to get enough loft on a corner route to Witten with linebacker Bruce Carter in coverage. The throw was more on the line and Witten couldn't get both hands on it. With a little more air, Witten would have made the catch.
  • The struggles continued for cornerback B.W. Webb. On two of three passes he was beaten by Tim Benford and Cole Beasley. On the second play Beasley was able to change direction so quickly that Webb lost his leverage and gave up a big gain.
  • Backup left tackle Darrion Weems did a nice job of kicking out defensive end Martez Wilson on a Lance Dunbar run to beat a blitz from the defense.
  • Backup tight end Gavin Escobar had a good day after missing the open session last week with what he described as a tweaked back. He plucked a Hanie pass away with Jakar Hamilton closing fast, making sure the safety did not have a chance to break up the play. Later working in motion he was able to get inside leverage with a hard sell to the outside for a decent completion from Dustin Vaughan.
  • DeVonte Holloman and Anthony Hitchens did not take part in team drills. Holloman has been slowed by a hamstring strain. Undrafted rookie Dontavis Sapp was able to get more work at backup middle linebacker.
  • Receiver Dwayne Harris was kept out of team drills as a receiver as he continues to come back from offseason shoulder surgery. He was able to handle the punt return duties. Harris said he will not do any team drills on offense until training camp.
  • The Cowboys signed defensive end Dartwan Bush, who attended the rookie minicamp on a tryout basis, and will place cornerback Jocquel Skinner on injured reserve with a knee injury.

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