Some teams ignore backup quarterback, often to their detriment. (See: 2011 Colts, Bears, et al) Other teams really, really really don't. The Dallas Cowboys fall into the latter group. They do not feel comfortable if they don't have a veteran backup who can step in and start an NFL game if Tony Romo goes down with an injury. That's why they put in a claim for Kyle Orton when he was waived by Denver during the 2011 season and that's why they have agreed to terms with Orton on a new three-year contract.
When Romo got hurt two years ago, the Cowboys were able to plug in Jon Kitna, a former NFL starter who retired this offseason, and operate their offense basically just as well as it operated under Romo. Kitna wasn't as good as Romo is, and neither is Orton, but given the number of weapons the Cowboys have on offense, they want their worst-case scenario to be a quarterback who won't get rattled by NFL pressure and can get the ball to the right people. Orton, who began each of the past two seasons as the Broncos' starting quarterback and lost his job in 2011 to the Tim Tebow phenomenon, fits the description. If he has to start a lot of games for the Cowboys, they're probably in trouble. But if he has to start one or two -- or finish a game in which Romo gets injured -- they won't have to worry whether he can handle the responsibility.
The other quarterback on the Cowboys' roster is Stephen McGee, who was their fourth-round draft pick three years ago and hasn't seen enough action to be counted on in the event that they need a starter.
Orton was also on the radar for the Washington Redskins, who are in the market for a backup to the rookie quarterback they plan to draft with the No. 2 overall pick in next month's draft. But the Cowboys got him instead. Now, they need to sign a defensive back. More on that later, I believe, as we continue to track what's going on with Brandon Carr.