“If he plays, we want him to play for the Cowboys,” owner and general manager Jerry Jones said.
Orton, 32, is contemplating retirement and that would play a huge part in how the Cowboys proceed in the offseason, but Jones said the team has not pressed Orton for an answer. Jones said he has not spoken to Orton.
Orton is set to make $3.25 million in 2014 and count $4.37 million against the salary cap. Needing to find as much cap space as possible, the Cowboys could look to restructure Orton’s contract to create room or ask him to take a paycut. If the team releases Orton, then they would save about $1 million in space.
If Orton retires, then he would have to pay back the Cowboys $3 million of the $5 million signing bonus he received in 2012.
Orton came off the bench in the Week 17 finale to the Philadelphia Eagles to throw for 358 yards and two touchdown passes, but a late interception ruined a potential rally and the Cowboys lost 24-22 to finish 8-8 for the third straight season.
“Logic tells me that with the experience we had the last ballgame, with the amount we’re paying him, with the wear and tear that’s involved, from my perspective, I’d take the money,” Jones said.
If Orton does step away or if the Cowboys cut him, then they would have to address the position in free agency or the draft or both. Jason Garrett has kept a higher-priced backup to Tony Romo since arriving as offensive coordinator in 2007 with Brad Johnson, Jon Kitna or Orton.
Romo, who turns 34 in April, is coming off back surgery but expected to be ready for the offseason program.
“We need a good backup quarterback,” Jones said. “We know that.”