Dallas Cowboys: Caleb Hanie

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.
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.”

Minicamp observations: Hamilton shines

June, 19, 2014
Jun 19
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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
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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.”

OTA observations: Pump up the volume

June, 10, 2014
Jun 10
5:49
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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.
IRVING, Texas -- Here are some observations from the Dallas Cowboys’ organized team activities on Monday:

• The Nos. 1 and 2 defenses came up with wins in the two-minute drills against the offense. Linebacker Justin Durant broke up a fourth-down pass from Brandon Weeden to Jason Witten. Weeden was late with a third-down throw to Dez Bryant that could have been a big gain.

• The second-team defense had two would-be sacks to close out their two-minute drill. Martez Wilson came unblocked after the defense blitzed from the strong side.

• Linebacker Kyle Wilber showed some position flexibility by moving to left defensive end in the two-minute drills. He was at least able to battle to a draw with Doug Free.

• Cornerback Morris Claiborne took part in team drills after being limited to individual drills during the first OTA open to the media. With the Cowboys working mostly in their nickel defense, Claiborne got a lot of work on the outside, but Orlando Scandrick continued to work with the starters.

• Wide receiver Terrance Williams had two drops in the early part of practice but came up with a nice sideline catch on a throw from Weeden with safety J.J. Wilcox late with some help.

• Safety Jakar Hamilton came up with a nice pass breakup on a crossing route by Jamar Newsome on a throw from quarterback Caleb Hanie.

• Running back Lance Dunbar killed the backup linebackers in 7-on-7 drills. He ran away from Keith Smith on an underneath route. He lined up in the backfield, in the slot and even motioned wide. Dunbar has the look of a space player Scott Linehan has excelled with in the past in special circumstances.

• Jason Witten was a late arrival to practice because his son had minor surgery Monday. Witten said his son is fine and he was able to take part in all of the team work. Backup tight end Gavin Escobar did not practice because of a sore back. He said he banged his knee in practice last week but that is OK.

• Wide receiver Dwayne Harris did not take part in any offensive team drills but he did return punts during the special teams portion of practice.

• New defensive tackle Terrell McClain showed some burst up the middle to stop a run by DeMarco Murray while playing the three technique. He also played the nose tackle spot for a few snaps with Nick Hayden sitting out.

Non-Tony Romo OTA questions

May, 27, 2014
May 27
10:00
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IRVING, Texas -- All eyes will be on Tony Romo when the Dallas Cowboys hold their first organized team activity of the offseason.

Romo said he will be on a “pitch count” during OTAs as he continues to rehab from back surgery last December, but doing anything will represent an increase from what he was able to do in OTAs last year when he was kept out of drills because of surgery to remove a cyst from his back.

But there will be other questions at the OTAs, too.

Here are five:

Selvie
What does the defensive line look like?

The Cowboys have revamped their line this offseason. They parted ways with DeMarcus Ware, and Jason Hatcher signed with the Washington Redskins. They added Henry Melton, Jeremy Mincey, Terrell McClain and Amobi Okoye in free agency, though only Mincey and McClain are expected to work fully in the OTAs. Melton is coming back from a torn anterior cruciate ligament and Okoye is coming back from a personal medical issue that kept him out of football last season. Anthony Spencer was re-signed, but he won’t do anything on the field until training camp. The Cowboys drafted DeMarcus Lawrence in the second round and will welcome back Tyrone Crawford after he missed last year with a torn Achilles.

A quick thought on what the first-team line will look like (left to right): George Selvie (the leading returner in sacks from last year, with seven), McClain, Crawford, Mincey. And that does not mean this group will look like this in July.

Claiborne
Will there be a cornerback battle?

Orlando Scandrick was the Cowboys’ best cornerback in 2013. Morris Claiborne was the first-round pick in 2012 but has yet to play to that level in two seasons. Coach Jason Garrett showed last year he was unafraid to make lineup changes regardless of a players’ draft status or contract, so Scandrick should continue to line up with the first team.

It’s up to Claiborne to make the decision harder for the coaches. He is coming off offseason shoulder and finger surgeries and could be limited some. But if he can practice, he needs to show early he can be a factor on this defense. He also needs to show he can stay healthy.

Where does Zack Martin fit?

The Cowboys have all but declared him a starter, much the way they did with Travis Frederick last year. Martin worked at right guard in the rookie minicamp, which would push Mackenzy Bernadeau out of the starting lineup.

But the Cowboys could call it a three-man battle between Martin, Bernadeau and Ronald Leary for the two starting guard spots.

Martin performed well at the rookie minicamp but will face stiffer tests during the OTAs and minicamp. The Cowboys expect him to handle all the work the same way Frederick and Tyron Smith did as rookies.

Wilcox
Can second-year players make a jump?

Wide receiver Terrance Williams will be a full-time starter in 2013 since Miles Austin is gone. Tight end Gavin Escobar will get a chance to work a lot more. J.J. Wilcox is penciled in as the starting safety opposite Barry Church. DeVonte Holloman will battle Kyle Wilber for the starting strongside linebacker spot.

For the Cowboys to get off the 8-8 train, they need these young players to make jumps. Teams like to say the biggest jump a player will make is between his rookie and second season. The Cowboys will need all four to play more meaningful snaps in 2014.

What about the other QBs?

If Kyle Orton shows up, it will be a huge surprise. He has not taken part in the offseason program yet, but the team said it anticipates Orton at the mandatory minicamp in June. The Cowboys like what they have seen from Brandon Weeden so far, but would like him to be a developmental quarterback in 2014 and not Romo’s No. 2. At least that’s the thought going into the OTAs. The team also signed veteran Caleb Hanie and undrafted free agent Dustin Vaughan.

With Romo on a pitch count and Orton absent, Weeden, Hanie and Vaughan will get more work than expected. That’s a good thing for them as snaps in camp will be even more limited.

No guaranteed money for Okoye, Williams

May, 22, 2014
May 22
2:30
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IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys are not sure when Amobi Okoye will be cleared to return to the football field from what has been called a personal medical issue that kept him out of the game in 2013, but they have bought themselves some time and insurance.

Okoye signed a two-year deal with the Cowboys last week that did not contain any signing bonus or guaranteed money. Okoye, who hopes a reunion with defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli will rejuvenate his career, will make $730,000 in 2014 and $870,000 in 2015.

Running back Ryan Williams signed a one-year deal with no signing bonus or guaranteed money worth $570,000.

The Cowboys have signed five players as free agents so far without signing bonuses: Okoye, Williams, Brandon Weeden, Caleb Hanie and Anthony Spencer.

Spencer has $250,000 of his $1.25 million base salary guaranteed provided he does not reinjure his knee. Jeremy Mincey received the largest guarantee among the Cowboys' free-agent additions at $2 million. Henry Melton received a $1 million signing bonus and would be guaranteed another $9 million in 2015 if the Cowboys pick up his three-year option. Terrell McClain received a $300,000 signing bonus.

Kyle Orton's future still unknown

May, 19, 2014
May 19
9:00
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IRVING, Texas -- Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett has said the same thing regarding Kyle Orton the last few times he has met with the media. He “anticipates,” Orton being with the team for the mandatory minicamp in June.

That does not mean Orton wants to play in 2014. It simply means he could show just to avoid a fine of roughly $70,000 for missing the mandatory camp.

Orton
Asked Saturday if that could be Orton’s plan, Garrett said, “You’ll have to ask him that.”

Orton has been quiet. His agent, David Dunn, who also represents Garrett, said at the NFL owners meetings that retirement was never option, yet Orton has yet to show up for the voluntary offseason conditioning program.

Orton took part in it in 2012 and ’13. The Cowboys would like him to be around to learn some of the changes Scott Linehan is implementing offensively. They would like him to get more work as Tony Romo recovers from back surgery. They would like him to help the younger quarterbacks.

If Orton retires, he would owe the Cowboys $3 million of the $5 million signing bonus he received in 2012. Retirement is not an option.

If the Cowboys cut Orton after June 1, they save $3.25 million against the cap this year. Because of the voidable remaining years on his contract, he will count $2.255 million against the cap in 2015 anyway.

The Cowboys will have an idea if Orton really wants to play by the type of shape he is in at the June camp. If he is in decent shape, then he could continue to play. If not, then he could be looking for the Cowboys to cut him, which would not require him to repay the team any of the signing bonus.

Some want to criticize Orton for wanting it both ways -- not wanting to play and not wanting to repay the money -- but teams often want it both ways, asking players to take pay cuts or risk being cut. Orton is using his only leverage.

The Cowboys have signed Brandon Weeden and Caleb Hanie in the offseason and added undrafted free agent Dustin Vaughan. They view Weeden as a developmental quarterback and would want Orton to fulfill the contract. If he doesn’t, then Weeden would be Romo’s backup.

“We’re still hopeful that Kyle will be here,” quarterback coach Wade Wilson said, “but if he doesn’t, we feel really good about Brandon, especially since he’s going through our off-season program.”

Garrett hopes Romo will do more at OTAs

May, 19, 2014
May 19
8:00
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IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys are hoping Tony Romo will be able to do more once the team begins its organized team activities next week.

Romo has been taking part in a limited part of Phase Two of the offseason program as he continues to recover from back surgery performed last December.

“We’ll see how he does this week and hopefully he can do something,” coach Jason Garrett said Sunday night at the Taste of the NFL event at the Gaylord Texan. “He’s done a little bit of stuff, then he’s kind of backed off, done a little bit more then backed off. So we’ve just got to kind of evaluate how his workouts go this week.”

In Phase Two, players and coaches are on the field but do not have competitive situations against the defense. Romo has been throwing and has said his back feels good.

The Cowboys will begin their OTAs on May 27 and have 10 practices through June 12. They will have their mandatory minicamp on June 17-19.

“Obviously we’d love to get him out there for everything, but we’re going to be smart,” Garrett said. “We recognize it’s the third week of May and what we’re trying to do is get him ready to play in the regular season. You want to be aggressive with it but you also want to be smart with it.”

Romo’s limited work allows more action for Brandon Weeden, Caleb Hanie and rookie Dustin Vaughan. Backup quarterback Kyle Orton has not taken part in the voluntary offseason program, but Garrett said he anticipates the veteran will be on hand for the minicamp. If Orton skips the minicamp, he would be subject to a fine of roughly $70,000.

But Romo’s health is the bigger story for the Cowboys.

“You always kind of have a big plan, then you kind of see how you’re doing along that plan and make the adjustments accordingly,” Garrett said. “We’ll be smart with it, but he’s chomping at the bit to get back. We’ve got to make sure we do the right things.”

Missing workouts costs Kyle Orton $75,000

April, 25, 2014
Apr 25
5:06
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IRVING, Texas -- Having missed the first four days of the Dallas Cowboys' offseason program, quarterback Kyle Orton's base salary will decrease if he ends up playing in 2014, according to his contract.

Orton has a $75,000 de-escalator for failing to complete a percentage of offseason workouts, which will take his base salary from $3.25 million to $3.175 million for 2014.

It might be a sign of how serious Orton is considering not playing in 2014.

He participated in the offseason programs in each of his first two years with the Cowboys. Orton, 31, is in the final year of his contract. At the NFL owners meetings, agent David Dunn said Orton would play in 2014, and the Cowboys have long believed he would play because of his high base salary and the fact that he would have to pay back $3 million of the $5 million signing bonus he received in 2011 if he retired.

The offseason program is voluntary. The only mandatory part of it is a minicamp from June 17-19. If Orton skips that, he would face a fine of up to roughly $70,000.

The Cowboys signed veteran Caleb Hanie this week as insurance in case Orton's absence continues.

Orton is one of a number of players with a de-escalator clause in his contract for missing offseason workouts. The de-escalators range from $500,000 for players such as Jason Witten and Brandon Carr to $25,000 for long-snapper L.P. Ladouceur.

Cowboys' Twitter mailbag, Part 1

April, 25, 2014
Apr 25
1:00
PM ET
IRVING, Texas -- Part 1 of the Dallas Cowboys' Twitter mailbag is ready.

In it we discuss the Cowboys possibly taking a safety in the first round, why Caleb Hanie was brought in, drafting a cornerback in the first round, Rod Marinelli’s ability to adapt and Tony Romo as a free agent.

Part 2 of the mailbag will be delivered on Saturday. If you have a question, fire one off to me via Twitter (@toddarcher).

Away we go:

.

Caleb Hanie gives Cowboys insurance

April, 23, 2014
Apr 23
6:25
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The Dallas Cowboys have done two things this offseason, add to the defensive line and to the quarterback position.

On Wednesday afternoon, the team signed Caleb Hanie to a one-year contract to become the fourth quarterback on the roster. Hanie's signing is insurance if Kyle Orton, the current No. 2, retires or forces the team to release him.

Hanie
Orton has missed the early stages of the offseason program, which started on Monday. While those programs are voluntary, the quarterback should always be at these affairs. Tony Romo, recovering from back surgery, was in full attendance at Valley Ranch on Monday and has been around the facility most of the offseason.

Financially, it just doesn't make sense for Orton to leave the Cowboys. He loses $3.2 million in base salary should he retire, and he could be forced to pay back roughly $3 million in bonuses. However, Orton might just be forced to repay $510,000, which is the signing bonus he picked up last year from a re-negotiated contract from last March.

However the financials work out, losing Orton in any way, means the team's quarterback position gets weaker behind Romo.

Orton was a solid backup and worth the money the Cowboys were paying him to support Romo. But if he's gone, the options are limited.

Brandon Weeden played two seasons in Cleveland and despite his age (30), he's still relatively young in NFL years.

Hanie, a Forney, Texas native, didn't play last season in Cleveland, yet in 2011 he went 0-4 as a starter for the Chicago Bears with three touchdown passes and nine interceptions thrown. When Romo injured his back and the Cowboys worked out a gaggle of quarterbacks last December, Hanie looked very good during his visit.

But the Cowboys went with Jon Kitna instead because he was familiar with Jason Garrett's offense.

Now, after another workout on Wednesday, Hanie looked sharp again and this time he was signed to the one-year deal.

Of course, Hanie, Weeden and Orton might not be here, if at all in 2014, should the Cowboys select a quarterback in the early rounds of next month's draft. We're not even going into the Johnny Manziel talk because it's doubtful he'll fall to No. 16 overall.

The Cowboys have greater needs for their team -- especially on defense, which finished last overall in 2013. Getting a defensive end and maybe a right tackle are priorities. Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones said the offseason work, in terms of signing three defensive linemen, has prompted the team to draft for the best player available, instead of forcing to draft for a need.

Hanie gives the Cowboys flexibility as a No. 2 quarterback -- if he can beat out Weeden.

It's amazing how the Cowboys' backup quarterback, the same player, who almost beat the Philadelphia Eagles in the 2013 regular-season finale, has turned the offseason upside down with his indecision to play.

But the Cowboys made the right decision on Wednesday in getting Hanie, because there's nothing wrong with a little insurance.

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