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Monday, March 3, 2014
Dallas' backup QB options if Orton retires

By Todd Archer

IRVING, Texas -- With free agency starting in about a week, the Dallas Cowboys still don’t know if Kyle Orton wants to play in 2014.

Orton
At the NFL scouting combine, owner and general manager Jerry Jones assumed Orton would want to play basically because of the money. Orton is set to make $3.25 million in 2014 and Jones wonders how anybody could walk away from that kind of money, especially a backup quarterback. And if Orton does retire, he would have to repay $3 million of the $5 million signing bonus he received in 2012.

Since Jones is assuming, let's go with the assumption that Orton won’t play in 2014. That leaves the Cowboys with a pretty big hole behind Tony Romo, who is coming off a second back surgery in eight months.

With head coach Jason Garrett at the controls of the team's offense since 2007 (initially as offensive coordinator), the Cowboys have invested in their backups to Romo: Brad Johnson, Jon Kitna and Orton have filled the role. Dallas values the backup quarterback position more than other teams in the NFL.

Jones has said that the Cowboys will not look at a quarterback early in the draft, so that rules out the top-shelf prospects. They interviewed Jimmy Garoppolo and David Fales (among others) at the combine, so there’s at least some interest in those two.

But could the Cowboys trust their backup job to a rookie or inexperienced player? History says no.

So who could be available when free agency begins? Options include Matt Cassel, Shaun Hill, Brady Quinn, Charlie Whitehurst, Derek Anderson and David Garrard. Do they do anything for you?

They have started games in the NFL, which is a plus. Some of them have won at different times, if not for long stretches.

One thing to consider: Cassel and Anderson are represented by David Dunn, who also is the agent for Garrett and passing game coordinator Scott Linehan. One more thing to consider: Hill played for Linehan with the Detroit Lions.

Linehan will be bringing in new terminology to the offense. It would make sense to look at a guy like Hill to help with the process because of his experience. Hill is 34, but he has thrown just 12 passes in the past three years behind Matthew Stafford. Hill's career stats include a 13-13 record, 41 touchdown passes and 23 interceptions.