NFL Nation: Kyle Orton

Uncertainty clouds the backup quarterback position at Chicago Bears training camp with Jordan Palmer and Jimmy Clausen competing for the No. 2 job. So it’s no surprise general manager Phil Emery expressed an interest Saturday in potentially bringing back Kyle Orton.

[+] EnlargeKyle Orton
Daniel Plassmann/USA TODAY SportsIf Kyle Orton is interested, the Bears are open to the idea of bringing back the veteran quarterback, who played for Chicago from 2005-08.
“I have great respect for Kyle,” Emery told Jeff Dickerson on ESPN Radio. “When I was in Kansas City, we brought him in. That’s the famous claim the Bears figured they would get [in 2011]. We claimed him. He came in. He started against the Bears; got hurt first or second play. At the time in Kansas City, we won the game. The next week, he starts against Green Bay, an undefeated Green Bay team [which] had the longest winning streak in football at that point. [He] beat them; beat them in Kansas City. Great leadership skills, guys really like playing for him, big arm. So the skill set is there. But as far as where he’s going in his career… that we don’t know.”

Orton was preparing to play his ninth season in the NFL when the Dallas Cowboys released him just before the start of training camp. The release came after Orton skipped Dallas’ offseason program while contemplating retirement.

Orton reportedly spent a few days in Dallas meeting with club officials, but the Cowboys ultimately decided to release him. During those meetings, Orton told team officials he would show up to training camp. But throughout the offseason, Orton reportedly had cut off all communication with Cowboys officials.

Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones said just before the quarterback’s release that Orton intended to play in 2014, but many around the league believe Orton will retire.

“[There’s] a lot of rumors in terms of him retiring,” Emery said. “I certainly know that if he had an interest in playing, that would be out in the league. We’re extremely excited about Jay [Cutler], and we’re extremely excited about the competition we have for the backups. If we see a player at quarterback or any other position that can help us, we’ll certainly take a look.”

Since losing Orton in the 2009 trade that brought Cutler to Chicago, the Bears have tried twice to bring him back. When Cutler suffered a broken thumb in 2011, the Bears put in a waiver claim for Orton, who was awarded to the Chiefs. At the time, Emery was Kansas City’s director of college scouting.

Emery tried to sign Orton during free agency in 2012, but the quarterback opted to play for the Cowboys.

“There’s an interest on our end on looking at any player that can help this team, and we continue to do that,” Emery said. “We want to keep looking at players that can really have a legitimate chance to make our team. If there’s a quarterback, a wideout, a defensive person -- a DB that could help us -- we're certainly gonna look at him.”

Orton certainly falls into that category, provided he still wants to play.

Dallas Cowboys' projected roster

July, 18, 2014
Jul 18
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IRVING, Texas -- Examining the Dallas Cowboys' roster:

QUARTERBACKS (2)

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)

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)

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.

LINEBACKER (7)

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.

CORNERBACK (5)


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.

SAFETY (5)

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.

SPECIALISTS (3)


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.
IRVING, Texas – Brandon Weeden's bid to be the Dallas Cowboys’ No. 2 quarterback in 2014 got a lot easier when the club decided to release Kyle Orton.

Weeden
Barring something unforeseen, Weeden, who signed a two-year deal in the offseason, will be Tony Romo’s backup. But Weeden does not look at the move as “weight off my shoulders.”

“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.”
IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys' decision to part ways with backup quarterback Kyle Orton has opened up a spot on the 90-man roster for training camp.

Orton
Josh Brent's name has come up as a possible fill-in, but sources say there is nothing new on that front. Brent remains at a treatment facility after he was released from county jail for his involvement in a 2012 car accident that killed his friend and teammate Jerry Brown.

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.
IRVING, Texas -- Even though Kyle Orton skipped the offseason program, the Dallas Cowboys believed he would eventually show up for the June minicamp. When he failed to show up for the minicamp, Jason Garrett spoke optimistically that the backup quarterback would show up for training camp.

On Tuesday, the Cowboys decided to release Orton.

Orton
For all of the threats of coming after his signing bonus money if Orton retired, which could have been up to $3.4 million, or docking his base salary nearly $150,000 for skipping a physical, the minicamp and the workouts, the Cowboys decided having a player, especially a quarterback, not fully vested in the program was not worth it.

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.
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.”
Part 2 of the Dallas Cowboys' Twitter mailbag is ready.

In it, we discuss:
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. @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. @toddarcher: If you're talking left defensive end, then sure. If you're looking for a pure right defensive end, then no. But he has position flexibility. He can move inside if necessary as well. The left side has to be a stronger player at the point of attack. He is that type of guy and he has some good pass rush to him, but not to the point where you can say he would be a 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. @toddarcher: He has done a better job. He appears to be playing more confident. Now, does that mean he is a shutdown corner worth the No. 6 pick in the draft? I don't want to go that far from watching football in helmets and jerseys in the spring, but it sure beats the alternative. He is as healthy as he has been, which plays a part into the confidence. He's not thinking about injuries out there. His comments at the end of the minicamp were encouraging. He was going to take a few days off here and there between now and training camp but he planned on staying on the grind. That's good news. He knows how important this year is to him. The Cowboys need him as much as anybody else on defense to be successful. As I said, I like what I've seen but I still think 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. @toddarcher: Yes, there is. If you want to take a look at the 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. 
IRVING, Texas -- Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones is not pleased backup quarterback Kyle Orton is missing this week’s mandatory minicamp, but he is taking a broader view of the quarterback situation.

“Well, I think candidly the way I look at it is it has really given us an opportunity, which we really needed to do, and that’s evaluate young quarterbacks or quarterbacks that might could fit in the picture for several years to come,” Jones said. “So I think that’s going to give us a chance to do that.”

Orton
Brandon Weeden has taken the first-team snaps the entire offseason with starter Tony Romo limited by December back surgery and Orton’s absence, and he has impressed the coaches and front office with his work.

But is it enough to where the Cowboys would feel comfortable with him as Romo’s backup and not the more tested Orton?

Jones would not discuss whether the Cowboys have told Orton’s agent that the team does not plan to cut the quarterback. If the Cowboys cut him, then they would not be able to recoup $3.4 million in signing bonus money. If Orton retires, then he would have to repay the Cowboys the bonus money from the deal he signed in 2012.

Jones said he has not had direct conversations with Orton, but the team has spoken with Orton’s agent, David Dunn, who also represents head coach Jason Garrett and passing game coordinator Scott Linehan.

Orton missed Monday’s physical, which subjects him to a fine of $10,930. By missing Tuesday’s workout he could be fined $11,575. If he misses all three days, then he would be fined $69,455. If he doesn’t show up for training camp, then he would be fined $30,000 for each day he misses. A $75,000 de-escalator has already kicked in Orton's contract for missing the workouts. With the fines and de-escalator, Orton's $3.25 million base salary would be reduced to $3.09 million if he plays.

“The bottom line is we’re just playing this as we move along on a day-to-day, week-to-week basis,” Jones said.

It has turned into a game of chicken between the sides. The next deadline comes when the Cowboys travel to Oxnard, California, for training camp on July 22. According to the collective bargaining agreement, if Orton misses the first six days of training camp, he would have to forfeit up to 15 percent of his yearly signing bonus proration. After six days, he would forfeit 1 percent of the proration for each day, maxing out at 25 percent. There are further penalties if he continues to sit into the regular season.

“As you know this game is for sure one thing, and that is when somebody is not here, somebody else steps up,” Jones said, “and that’s what we’ll be doing with our roster.”
It appears we have The Big Three of the offseason holdouts.

Andre Johnson, Vernon Davis and Kyle Orton.

Something doesn't seem right about this list, does it?

[+] EnlargeKyle Orton
Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsIf QB Kyle Orton doesn't want to take part in the Cowboys' offseason activities, then Dallas should move on without him, writes Calvin Watkins.
Johnson, of the Houston Texans, is irked at the direction of the franchise.

Davis, of the San Francisco 49ers, wants to get paid.

Orton, the Dallas Cowboys' backup quarterback, missed his physical exam on Monday and it's doubtful he'll show for the three-day mandatory veteran minicamp, which starts Tuesday morning at Valley Ranch.

Orton wants to retire and is willing to forgo $3.5 million in base salary and the potential of repaying the team nearly $3 million in previous bonus money for not fulfilling his end of the contract.

Orton hasn't been seen or heard from since the end of the 2013 regular season when the Cowboys lost to the Eagles on Dec. 29 at AT&T Stadium. It's not like Orton is such a bad guy, but with these latest actions, I think the Cowboys should just move on.

Just cut him and keep it moving.

Yes, that would mean Brandon Weeden steps up into the No. 2 role, and while he doesn't have the same NFL-experience of Orton and is one year younger than him at age 30, at least Weeden wants to be with the Cowboys.

Orton doesn't want to be around.

Tony Romo declined comment a few weeks ago when asked about Orton's commitment level to the franchise. Romo hasn't even spoken to the backup quarterback, leading me to believe there's something going on and it's not good.

When the Cowboys signed Orton, it was meant to add experienced depth to the quarterback position in case Romo was injured. When Romo missed the Eagles' game, Orton was more than qualified to lead the Cowboys.

Orton completed 30-of-46 passes for 358 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. His last interception, on a pass to Miles Austin, ended the Cowboys season. Yet if the Cowboys had somehow defeated the Eagles, there was a confidence level in Orton's abilities to lead the team.

But something changed this offseason.

Orton's agent, David Dunn, who didn't respond for a comment on his client, said during the NFL owners meetings his man would be in camp.

We haven't seen him.

Coach Jason Garrett said he anticipated Orton showing up to camp, at least the mandatory camp, and he just might. But Orton wasn't around for the voluntary workouts to bond with the new playcaller Scott Linehan. So why would Orton show up now?

The Cowboys can fine him up to $70,000 for his absences this week. What's $70,000 to a man like Orton? He's willing to give up at least $6 million, so why worry about $70,000.

Orton doesn't want to play football again, and if that's the case, then let him go. Why keep a man in your locker room if he doesn't want to be there.

A few years ago, wide receiver Cole Beasley questioned his commitment to the game in training camp and the team sent him home. Beasley came back refreshed and has been a productive player for the team.

Orton has taken his time off. His silence or absence speaks volumes.

It's just time for the Cowboys to say goodbye and move on.
IRVING, Texas -- Since joining the Dallas Cowboys as a free agent, Brandon Weeden is sure he has started to annoy Tony Romo -- in a good way -- with all the questions he is asking.

Romo
Weeden
"But I'm just trying to get a feel for what he thinks, why he does certain things," Weeden said. "He's an extremely successful quarterback and a very smart guy. I'd be crazy not to take everything I can from him."

But Weeden also realizes he can't take everything from Romo and implement it into his own game. They play the same position but they play it differently.

"He's done it for so long that he's found what works for him, whether it's footwork or types of throws or reads or whatever it may be," Weeden said. "He's got a feel for what he's good at. I just pick and choose what IU think may work for me. One thing about me, I'm going to be an aggressive thrower. I'm going to stretch the field vertically and I'm going to throw the ball aggressively. Sometimes I may get myself in trouble but I think being smart aggressive vs. being dumb aggressive is two different things.

"I've watched every game of his last year and I think what he does in the pocket, moving around the pocket, those things you really can't teach them, so I'm not sitting back there trying to do those spin moves and crazy stuff he does. But he's one of the best. Him and Ben Roethlisberger are the best I've ever seen at extending plays. That's not really my skill set. That's something I'm not going to take from him."

Weeden is getting to work with the first team during the organized team activities because Romo is recovering from back surgery and Kyle Orton is absent. He views this as an audition to show the coaches he can be the backup if needed.

Orton's status remains unsolved, but the club anticipates he will take part in the June 17-19 mandatory minicamp.

"That was one of things I talked to coach Garrett about when I came in before I signed," Weeden said. "I said, ‘I want an opportunity to come in and compete and get some reps and show that I can play.' He assured me that I was going to. So coming in Day 1, I think it's kind of what I expected. I think it's my job now to take advantage of each rep, especially going with the ones. I'm out there with guys who are perennial Pro Bowlers like Jason Witten and Dez (Bryant) and all these guys who are just the best at what they do. It's made it nice. It's been a good transition. Tony has been helping me a lot. It's been good for the first four days."
IRVING, Texas -- Maybe it’s nothing or maybe it’s everything.

The near silence from Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo regarding the absence of backup quarterback Kyle Orton from the offseason workouts speaks on so many levels.

Asked Tuesday if he talked to Orton, Romo said no.

[+] EnlargeTony Romo, Kyle Orton
AP Photo/Greg TrottTony Romo had little to say about Kyle Orton's absence from Dallas' offseason workouts.
Surprised Orton is not at the offseason workouts? “Am I surprised that Orton’s not here?" Romo said. "I’m not sure what you mean.”

When asked if he wanted to see Orton put forth the same commitment to the team as he and other players, Romo said: “Yeah, um, I don’t have any comment on that.”

Is there a rift between Romo and Orton?

It’s surprising to see Romo not talk extensively about Orton’s absence. One would think Romo would offer an opinion regarding somebody who works in the same quarterback room.

Back in June 2012, Romo had positive things to say regarding cornerback Mike Jenkins, who missed the offseason program because he was irked at the team about not getting a new contract as he recovered from shoulder surgery.

"There's always a business side to the game," Romo said then. "Personally, you just want to play football. I think Mike understands there's a time for business and there's a time to play. I think that stuff he's going through is for everybody. I think for him, he's got to do what he thinks is right. But at the same toime, he understands that he's part of the team.

"I expect Mike to have a great season. He's been a great player for us and I'm excited about having him back."

Why couldn’t Romo provide the same support for Orton?

Orton is thinking of retiring and team officials, who expect him to report to the mandatory veteran minicamp, haven’t been stressed about his absence.

Romo might be upset that Orton isn’t here and is worried he can’t trust his commitment going forward.

It was something coach Jason Garrett addressed in general terms.

“I don’t want to get into the specifics of that,” Garrett said. “I think all situations are different. Certainly, we’ll talk to our players and get a feel for what their mindset is.”

Financial reasons indicate the Cowboys have the leverage because they could command bonus money back from Orton, as much as $3 million. The team could also fine Orton for missing the mandatory minicamp, and the backup quarterback stands to lose $3.25 million in base salary if he retires in 2014.

“It’s always good for quarterbacks, really for any player, to be here and get the reps and go through meetings, be out on the practice field and compete against your teammates,” Garrett said. “That’s a good thing. When guys aren’t here, those are missed opportunities. Kyle’s a smart football player. He’s played for a long time in this league. I think he understands our system of football. He’s more able to handle not being here than maybe some are. Having said that, we want all our football players here practicing with their teammates and trying to get better.”

Orton’s absence might be deeper than money and could revolve around a working relationship with Romo. The No. 2 quarterbacks for Romo during his time as starter have been Drew Bledsoe, Brad Johnson, Jon Kitna and Orton.

Romo had good relationships with these quarterbacks and supported them when they replaced him for injury.

Each of the backup quarterbacks had been starters elsewhere and were on the backside of their careers. Orton, who could probably start for several teams, is entering the last phase of his career.

Romo is a durable player whose back injury now raises questions about his long-term status, despite what he says.

“You look at a couple of factors,” Romo said. “One, you see the number of people that have already done it in a lot of different sports. You look at it and see your level of improvement through the rehab and on top of it, you just understand that it’s like anything. You concentrate in your workouts and the time that you have to go prove yourself, you can really change just about anything. The human body is an amazing thing. Gives you a great opportunity to get better. I think I’ll be able to play for quite a bit longer.”

Whatever the issues are, if there are any, must be settled before Orton returns. If he does.
In a conference call with season ticket holders on Tuesday, Dallas Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said quarterback Tony Romo should be ready not only for the start of training camp in late July, but Week 1 of the 2014 season.

Romo
Romo had back surgery two days before the end of the 2013 regular season and is doing well in his rehab.

“Yes he will and he’s actually progressing great,” Jones said on the conference call. “He’s on schedule if not ahead of schedule. He’s throwing the ball around, we not only think he’ll be ready for opening week, he’ll start up at training camp and be ready to go. He’s obviously a tremendous competitor, and in our mind he kept us in all season long with a defense that was depleted with injuries, with a chance to win the NFC East in the last game of the year. And if he had played in that game, that game might have gone in a different direction.”

Kyle Orton replaced Romo in the 2013 regular season-finale against Philadelphia and completed 30-of-46 passes for 358 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. But it was Orton’s final pass of the game, an interception, that clinched the 22-21 victory for the Eagles.

Orton, considering retirement, hasn’t reported to the voluntary offseason workouts. The Cowboys didn’t draft a quarterback last week because team officials believe Romo is still in his prime, at age 34, and that he will recover from back surgery.

It’s the second such surgery for Romo, who had a cyst removed from his back last offseason. This most recent surgery was to repair a herniated disc in his back.

Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones said he expects Orton to return for offseason workouts, but didn't have any updates on his status. The Cowboys also signed quarterbacks Brandon Weeden and Calib Hanie in free agency.
IRVING, Texas -- For all of the talk about the Dallas Cowboys drafting a quarterback, they never really considered selecting one.

[+] EnlargeBrandon Weeden
Tony Dejak/AP PhotoThe Dallas Cowboys are viewing 30-year-old backup Brandon Weeden as their "developmental quarterback."
After the first round, owner and general manager Jerry Jones said picking Johnny Manziel, "wasn't even a thought," despite loving the former Texas A&M quarterback who ended up with the Cleveland Browns.

The Cowboys liked several lower-round quarterbacks, such as Tom Savage, but passed on all of them. The Cowboys have not drafted a quarterback since taking Stephen McGee in the fourth round of the 2009 draft. Since 1989, the Cowboys have drafted only four quarterbacks: Troy Aikman, Bill Musgrave, Quincy Carter and McGee. Steve Walsh was taken in the first round of the 1989 supplemental draft.

With Tony Romo coming off his second back surgery and Kyle Orton's future in question, many thought the Cowboys would take a shot at a quarterback.

"We feel in signing Brandon Weeden, he can be viewed as that developmental guy," coach Jason Garrett said. "A first-round pick a couple of years ago, coming from a baseball background, has all the physical tools you want. We view him as in that role right now, so we wanted to be selective about anybody else we wanted to bring in here."

So no Savage, no Aaron Murray, no AJ McCarron. The Cowboys did sign Dustin Vaughan as an undrafted free agent and he was on their draft board.

At quarterback, "the best players who play typically come from the top rounds," Garrett said. "I do think with how the league has changed, there is a demand to play those guys earlier and that changes the dynamic of taking your time to develop guys year after year and they play in years four and five. The thing you’re concerned about is developing them for somebody else. You develop them for two, three, four years and he goes and plays for another football team. We don’t think that’s a worthwhile thing. There’s been a theory around the league, teams like Green Bay for years always took a guy late and if that player develops into something that was a good thing for their team or to trade to somebody else. There were some examples of them doing that. It’s a philosophy a lot of teams, they agree with that. But when you have other issues on your team I think it becomes a little bit of a luxury to do that. When you feel good about your starter and you feel good about your backups, we feel it’s better to take a position player, a guy we know can contribute on special teams, instead of trying to develop that guy [quarterback]."
IRVING, Texas -- Cowboys officials met with reporters on Tuesday to discuss the upcoming NFL draft, but there were some questions regarding backup quarterback Kyle Orton.

He still hasn't worked out with the team since the voluntary offseason program started on April 21.

Orton
But team officials don't seemed too concerned that Orton isn't around as the offseason program enters its second phase this week.

"We expect Kyle to be here at some point in the offseason," coach Jason Garrett said. "These are not mandatory workouts and meetings that we're involved in right now. There's a mandatory minicamp (June 17) toward the end of the offseason program and we anticipate him and all of our players to be there for that."

Garrett wouldn't get into specifics regarding his conversations with Orton, other than to call them, "good." But Orton's agent, David Dunn said at the NFL owners meetings his client would play this year.

Yet, Orton hasn't arrived at Valley Ranch for workouts and is a healthy scratch if you will. He is thinking of retirement and if he chooses that option he might have to repay the Cowboys close to $3 million in bonus money. Orton is scheduled to make a base salary of $3.25 million this season. So Orton would forfeit the base salary and repay some signing bonus money if he retired.

Jerry Jones said Orton's status doesn't change how the Cowboys would draft. He almost dismissed the notion the team would select a quarterback at all. It seems Jones doesn't want to rebuild with a rookie quarterback because he feels Tony Romo is in his prime.

The Cowboys, however, don't have their No. 2 quarterback in the offseason program.

Romo is recovering from back surgery and his throwing is limited during workouts. Brandon Weeden and Caleb Hanie are the other quarterbacks participating in the offseason program.

"We like to have all of our players here," Garrett said. "Every coach in this league will tell you the same thing, understanding the nature of what the offseason program is. We can't mandate that to anybody. Some players choose not to be here. We anticipate him being here for the mandatory portion of minicamp and being with our football team."
IRVING, Texas -- Because Tony Romo is 34 and because he is coming off his second back surgery in less than a year, just about everybody believes it is time for the Dallas Cowboys to find his replacement.

ESPN NFL draft Insider Todd McShay said it. Mike Mayock of the NFL Network said it. A lot of fans have said it. A lot of others have said it.

If the Cowboys draft a quarterback, then it must be early in the draft. At least, that’s the general philosophy of Chicago Bears general manager Phil Emery when it comes to taking quarterbacks.

"I just did a little study. It's very interesting," Emery said in this ESPNChicago story. "That developmental theory doesn't hold a whole lot of water. There's entire classes of quarterbacks, since '06, I went back and looked at from Jay [Cutler's] on -- when people say developmental quarterbacks, OK, so who has gotten developed? There isn't a single quarterback after the third round since 2006 that has been a long-term starter. So you're either developing thirds, and most of them have been wiped out of the league. So to get a quality quarterback, you've got to draft them high. That 2012 class is a blip on the radar that's unusual, highly unusual.

"Most of the starters in this league come from the first and second round. So that's where you need to take a quarterback. So when you talk about quarterback every year, they have to be somebody that you truly believe will beat out the second and third quarterback that you perceive on your roster. And if not, history shows that you shouldn't make that pick."

From 2006 to 2013, there were 59 quarterbacks drafted in Rounds 3-7. Only two are top-end starters: Russell Wilson (third round, 2012, Seattle Seahawks) and Nick Foles(third round, 2012, Philadelphia Eagles). And Foles might have more to prove, but he was Pro Bowl-worthy in 2013.

The best of the rest: Bruce Gradkowski (sixth round, 2006); Matt Flynn (seventh round, 2008); Curtis Painter (sixth round, 2009); Ryan Mallett (third round, 2011); Kirk Cousins (fourth round, 2012). Other considerations: Colt McCoy (third round, 2010); T.J. Yates (fifth round, 2011); Tyrod Taylor (sixth round, 2011).

The odds are stacked against a team looking to develop a quarterback. Teams are not a lock to carry a third quarterback on the 53-man roster these days. The Cowboys have not done it since 2011, when they had Stephen McGee (fourth round, 2009). There just aren’t enough snaps to go around in a season for a quarterback to develop. The pressure on coaches to win means they want guys who can help carry games if a starter goes down, part of the reason why the Cowboys have gone with Brad Johnson, Jon Kitna and Kyle Orton as Romo's backups.

Maybe the Cowboys will draft a quarterback in the middle to late rounds this week. The odds of him turning into Wilson, Foles or Tom Brady (sixth round, 2000) are remote. He’s more likely to be Andre Woodson (sixth round, 2008), Mike Teel (sixth round, 2009), Jonathan Crompton (fifth round, 2010) or Nate Enderle (fifth round, 2011).

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