Dallas Cowboys: Kyle Orton
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)
- Tyron Smith
- Mackenzy Bernadeau
- Travis Frederick
- Zack Martin
- Doug Free
- Ronald Leary
- Jermey Parnell
- Darrion Weems
- Brian Clarke
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)
- George Selvie
- Henry Melton
- Terrell McClain
- DeMarcus Lawrence
- Jeremy Mincey
- Tyrone Crawford
- Ben Gardner
- Davon Coleman
- Ken Bishop
- Martez Wilson
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We also discussed:
- If Tony Romo gets the DeMarcus Ware treatment should the Cowboys go 8-8 again.
- If Dwayne Harris has a bigger role on offense.
- If the Cowboys re-sign DeMarco Murray.
- If DeMarcus Lawrence can be an elite pass-rusher.
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.
Walker worked out for the Cowboys in June along with tight end Dominique Jones and guards DeMarcus Love and Garrett Reynolds, but the team passed at the time. Orton was officially released on Wednesday.
Walker spent time last season with the San Diego Chargers after going undrafted in 2012. He started his college career at Memphis as a quarterback and receiver but played three years at Western Michigan as a tight end.
The Cowboys were looking to add numbers to the tight end spot for training camp with only Jason Witten, Gavin Escobar, James Hanna and Jordan Najvar on the roster.
“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.”
The Cowboys have not ruled out the possibility of re-signing Brent if he wants to re-start his NFL career, but they have more pressing needs to fill with training camp starting next week.
At this point in the summer, finding players is difficult. With teams carrying 90 players, there are only so many available. The pool is not filled with stars. It’s filled mostly with guys you hope can get you through a few days of practice, limit the amount of snaps you give your regulars and perhaps develop into contributors.
Tight end remains a position of need. The Cowboys have Jason Witten, Gavin Escobar, James Hanna and Jordan Najvar. They need more of a blocker in the group, not only on the 90-man roster but perhaps the 53-man roster.
The Cowboys like to carry a high number of receivers and corners because of the amount of running they do in training camp. They have 10 receivers and eight cornerbacks under contract. Again, the idea isn’t to sign a name veteran to make the masses happy at this point. It’s about practice (said in best Allen Iverson voice).
The Cowboys could also gain a spot if Amobi Okoye is not fully cleared for drills. He spent most of the offseason with the team, working out, but he did not take the field as he attempts a return from a personal medical issue. Including Okoye, the Cowboys have 16 defensive linemen on the roster.
With the release of Kyle Orton, that figure should be closer to $10.7 million.
As we’ve talked about before, cap space is always a moving target because the current figures do not include the top 53 contracts, which will count by the time the season starts, the practice squad players, injury settlements and future signings of players needed in case of injuries. Teams also like to leave a cushion in case ‘act of God’ situations arise.
But the extra room does give the Cowboys some more wiggle room in which to work on deals for Tyron Smith, Dez Bryant or both.
The Smith deal will be gigantic, given his age, ability and the desire to lock up the best young left tackle in the NFL. The Bryant deal will be big but not as gigantic.
The Cowboys have already secured Smith’s right for 2015 by picking up the fifth-year option on his rookie deal, but they want to get him locked up for the long term sooner rather than later. His agents visited Valley Ranch a few times in the offseason but it is not known how far along the sides are in negotiations.
Bryant is set to be an unrestricted free agent in 2015, but the Cowboys could also use the franchise tag to keep Bryant for an extra year. The wide receiver tag in 2014 is $12.3 million. The Cowboys want to keep Bryant and Bryant wants to remain with the Cowboys. There have been talks with his agent but nothing pressing.
The Cowboys have used training camp in order to get deals done in the past. Last year the Cowboys signed linebacker Sean Lee to an extension during camp.
Will they continue that trend? We’ll see, but the Orton move at least gives them some more cap space.
On Tuesday, the Cowboys decided to release Orton.
My initial reaction is surprise. My second reaction is: why not do this sooner?
Orton made it clear what his intentions were. He didn’t want to play football anymore. But with training camp fast approaching and a daily fine of $30,000 staring him in the face, he was preparing to come to Oxnard, California, next week.
The Cowboys will save $3.25 million in salary-cap space this year, which opens up more room for potential deals for Tyron Smith and/or Dez Bryant. Orton will count roughly $2.25 million against the cap next year, which he would have counted whether he played this year or not.
If Orton had retired, he would have had to pay back the signing bonus money on the $5 million he received in 2012 and the $510,000 restructuring of his deal in 2013. He wasn’t about to pay back that money and call it a career. He would have showed up for camp. Had he missed the first six days of camp, then the Cowboys could have come after parts of the $1.127 million signing bonus proration in 2014.
Orton was hardly unprofessional in his two years. He served as a sounding board for Tony Romo and other teammates as the backup. He played well in his one start last season, despite his fourth-quarter turnover. It was much better than people could have anticipated even though the Cowboys lost the NFC East title game to the Philadelphia Eagles.
The favorite: Kyle Orton
The contenders: Brandon Weeden and Caleb Hanie
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.
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.
- Why the Cowboys go to Oxnard, California, for training camp
- Why Kyle Orton will be at training camp
- Why the way Scott Linehan and Jason Garrett manage the game matters
- Why Calvin Johnson helps Dez Bryant this year
If you want to read the full chat, click here, but I want to delve more into one topic.
Cris A. (Dallas TX): What prevented Gavin Escobar to see so little playing time last year, his poor pass blocking or the coaches not finding a way to fit him in the offense?
Todd Archer: I'd say both. But here's where I think we'll see a difference with Linehan: he will coach to guys' strengths. It won't be about what Escobar can't do, but what he can do. It won't be about what [Cole] Beasley can't do but what he can do. I think the Cowboys coached a little scared in the past when it came to things like that. Do I think Escobar will be a great on-the-line tight end? Not really. He just doesn't have the body type to play the line. He's not that kind of player. But I think he can be an effective player if used right.
This was just a stream of consciousness in the chat, but it got me to thinking about the Cowboys’ offense the past few years. I think the coaches got bogged down into things guys couldn’t do as opposed to what they could do. Escobar is a good example of that. They knew he wasn’t much of a blocker when he was picked but they really didn't do anything to put his skills to work as a rookie. If he couldn’t block, he couldn’t be counted on. Despite their professed love for “12 personnel,” they ran the same stuff they did when Anthony Fasano, Martellus Bennett or John Phillips was the backup tight end. They didn’t invent ways to use Escobar differently. So what is the natural reaction? Well, Escobar is a bust. That’s not exactly fair to the kid. The coaches bear some responsibility for not utilizing his talents. To a smaller degree, they have done the same with Bryant. They haven’t moved him around because they were unsure he could play different spots or get in the slot. This offseason Bryant has moved around more. We saw Cole Beasley line up some outside. We’ve seen running backs line up in the slot.
To me, the coaches have been too reactive to the defense, despite Garrett saying they want to dictate the action. They haven’t. Now, they have been productive in yards and points and sometimes both over the years. But could they have been better? A lot better? There didn’t seem to be a lot of innovation to the offense because the answer was always, "trust the system." Well, the system sometimes should bend for the players in it. I don’t believe the Cowboys have done that enough.
But here’s a guess: Linehan will help change that, especially on game day.
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 How many tight ends can you possibly keep esp if you keep 5 wide outs. Seems like there needs to be at least 1 odd man out.— Sean McCauley (@seanmac331) July 2, 2014
@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.
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.”
Kyle Orton is thinking of retirement.
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."
- The Cowboys don't seem to be winners in the Kyle Orton holdout. The backup quarterback has missed all the offseason workouts, including the mandatory sessions from last week. Orton is thinking of retirement and the team wants him to stay. Coach Jason Garrett compared Orton's situation to that of wide receiver Cole Beasley, who took a few days off from training camp a few years ago pondering his own journey in the NFL. Beasley returned and has gained success in the NFL. Orton doesn't need time away, it seems his mind is made up and he wants to move on. The Cowboys, for financial and depth reasons, want him to stay. But why keep a man on the roster if he doesn't want to be here? The best thing is to cut Orton and move on.Orton
- Anthony Spencer jogged pretty well during the offseason and while his return from microfracture surgery is late in training camp, he could be the X-factor with the defensive line. George Selvie and DeMarcus Lawrence are the main pass-rushers with Bruce Carter expected to take over the main tackling duties at linebacker. However, the Cowboys need someone to cause pressure in the pocket, and the best pass-rusher on this team is Spencer. Yes, he's recovering from a serious injury, but Spencer is motivated to return and prove he can be a productive force again. If Spencer can return, as say a third-down pass-rusher in 2014, the one-year contract he signed might be the best offseason move the team made.
- I don't believe Tony Romo will have any problems once training camp starts from his back surgery. During the offseason work, Romo was throwing passes with good zip and looked pretty good while jogging around the practice fields. He doesn't look overweight, in fact it wouldn't surprise me if he came in at the 235-pound range this summer. The key to Romo is how he takes these hits and if he's still has that mobility in the pocket. If Romo can still move around like he's done in previous seasons, the Cowboys shouldn't be worried. Romo has always taken hits, that's just life in the NFL, but if he can still move around the pocket over a 16-game season, that will tell you plenty about his recovery.
- It was interesting you didn't hear much about running back Joseph Randle, the 2013 fourth-round pick from Oklahoma State. The Cowboys are geared for DeMarco Murray and Lance Dunbar to get more touches this upcoming season. What about Randle? He's supposed to replace Murray if he gets hurt, but the Cowboys signed Ryan Williams, who has a promising career until injuries curtailed it. Randle has some skills, but needs the touches, yet, this Williams signing could be a sign the Cowboys have either moved on from Randle or want to push him to do better.
- If the season started today, J.J. Wilcox and Barry Church would start at safety and that's the best pairing the team has right now. Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said both are ranging players who make plays on the ball. Marinelli said the pair are good tacklers, Church led the team in tackles last season, and that's key for a defense that was beaten up plenty last season. Matt Johnson and Jeff Heath need to make more plays on the ball in the preseason if they're going to knock Wilcox out of a starting job. It didn't look good to see Johnson, again, doing rehab work because of his hamstring problems. Heath gained valuable experience last season when Wilcox was out with injury. Heath isn't afraid to mix it up, which is good, but his ball skills need work.
In it, we discuss:
- The future of Tony Romo
- Mr. Indispensable
- Tyrone Crawford as a defensive end
- Morris Claiborne’s offseason.
- Once more on Kyle Orton, with feeling.
If you want to see Part 1 of the mailbag, click here. And this will be our last Twitter mailbag for a few weeks thanks to some vacation.
Away we go:
@toddarcher: Since Romo is such a golf guy, let's use a golf analogy: he's on the back nine. I don't know how anybody could think otherwise. He is 34. He is coming off two back surgeries. He is in his eighth year as a full-time starter. Just because he is on the back nine doesn't mean he can't play at a high level. I know the odds are stacked and thirty-something quarterbacks haven't won a lot of Super Bowls here lately, but I'd take my chances he's on Holes 12 and 13, if you will. He still has football in him, provided he can stay upright. I do think Romo is smart enough to adapt his game as he gets older. If you allow me to carry on with other sports analogies, here's another one: fastball pitchers can develop into multipitch guys over the years. Romo has done a lot on his own with some improvisation and ability to buy time. I don't think you'll see him run around as much as he did when he was younger. I think you'll see him pick and choose his spots. I believe he did some of that last year, which is one of the reasons his sack total was so high. He was willing to take the sack -- not necessarily the big hit mind you -- and move on to the next play rather than take a risk of a hit or a poor throw.
Is Tony Romo's best years in front of him or behind him? #cowboysmail— Nolan (@Nolan_Fowler22) June 20, 2014
@toddarcher: Conventional wisdom says DeMarco Murray because when he gets 20 carries in a game, the Cowboys win. I hate that stat. If it really means what it says it means, then Murray should get the ball on the first 20 plays of every game. We all know it doesn't work that way. But I'm also of the opinion that the running back position has been devalued. I think the Cowboys could get by without Murray. Would they be as good? No, but they would not be lost. To me, if they lost Jason Witten, then they would be in trouble. Witten has been a mainstay. He does everything. The passing game has missed receivers over the years, but Romo has been able to throw for more than 300 yards in game whether he has Kevin Ogletree, Laurent Robinson or Dwayne Harris playing big roles. Without Witten, I don't know that that would continue. And in the running game, Witten can set the edge. He's not a blow-them-up blocker, but he can displace defensive ends and linebackers to allow backs to pick holes. On defense, I really didn't have a candidate, but if I did, I'd probably go with Barry Church. I don't know what they would do at safety without him. The defense would take a different look, for sure. DeMarcus Ware type. He can be a Greg Ellis type. If he does not play well, then the Cowboys' defensive line will struggle. They need him to have a good year. I think the expectations have been raised on the kid from comments by guys like Jason Hatcher and Tony Romo. People need to remember he didn't have a sack in 2012 and he missed last year. There will be some growing pains, but the potential is definitely there. Orlando Scandrick will be the starter Week 1 against the San Francisco 49ers. To win that job from Scandrick he will have to knock out the champ, if you know what I mean. NFL's collective bargaining agreement, look at Article 4, Section 9. It's about forfeiture. If I had to bet when Kyle Orton shows up at training camp it would be either July 27 or July 28. Once he misses six practices, the Cowboys can come after the prorated amount of signing bonus in 2014. So in addition to the fines he induced in the offseason -- $69,455 for missing the minicamp, $10,930 for missing the physical -- and the $75,000 de-escalator in his contract for missing too many workouts, Orton would be fined $30,000 for missing camp. So let's say he misses a week, costing him $150,000. You're looking at about $300,000 in fines, de-escalators, which brings his base salary to just under $3 million. I think for 17 regular-season weeks and a month of preseason, Orton would be OK to make that kind of money and then walk away from the game. It will be interesting to see how this goes when the Cowboys get to camp. They have remained patient, to say the least, while Orton has been silent.
Take Romo, Dez, and Tyron out of the equation, who is Mr. Indispensible for the boys this yr?? #cowboysmail— Michael Scattone (@scattydukes) June 20, 2014