Tony Romo Can Sleep Easy, Dallas Cowboys Only Signed Kyle Orton as a Backup

Cian FaheyFeatured ColumnistMarch 14, 2012

DENVER, CO - JANUARY 01:  Quarterback Kyle Orton #8 of the Kansas City Chiefs warms up prior to facing the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on January 1, 2012 in Denver, Colorado. The Chiefs defeated the Broncos 7-3 as the Broncos advanced to the AFC playoffs.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

It is bemusing that both Jason Campbell and Kyle Orton, experienced starters who performed well for the most part on the field last season, signed deals in free agency as backups.

Campbell signed with the Chicago Bears yesterday prior to Orton landing with the Dallas Cowboys today. Both moves are fantastic pieces of business for their respective new teams.

Orton, in particular, will be of great value to the Dallas Cowboys as Tony Romo enters the latter stages of his career. Romo is 31 years of age, but still had a phenomenal season last year notching 31 touchdowns to only 10 interceptions and over 4,000 yards.

The biggest worry with Romo is not his clutch ability in the fourth quarter, but rather his need to stay healthy. Last season Romo started all 16 games; however, he played a few games with broken ribs and one with a punctured lung as his young offensive line transitioned together.

As admirable as it was for Romo to fight through the pain for his teammates and guide them to victory, the reality is Romo cannot continue to do that and expect to last much longer in the NFL.

Bringing in a proven backup will allow Romo to sit on the sidelines at times should he need to in the future. It may not be the "cool" or "inspirational" move but more often than not, sitting is the smarter move. Teams that are able to sit their starting quarterbacks generally benefit from it in the long term.

The Cowboys didn't have that option last year with Stephen McGee as the backup; they needed Romo to win them football games. Unlike the Pittsburgh Steelers, who were able to rest Ben Roethlisberger at key stages by bringing in Charlie Batch, the Cowboys had to keep Romo in the firing line constantly.

While it didn't result in any long-term damage, going forward with that strategy isn't ideal for a quarterback of Romo's build, or any quarterback for that matter.

While the Cowboys' line came together as the season went along last year, there will be another transition period to start next year as the team's two offensive tackles will swap sides. Tyron Smith was drafted to be a left tackle in the future and the future is apparently this coming season.

Smith will take over for Doug Free, who will take Smith's position on the opposite side, because of his sheer physical talents. However, adjusting to that new role, a much more difficult role to fill, will be an eye opening and testing experience for Smith. It is very unlikely that he seamlessly transitions to the new position.

While obviously losing Romo isn't what anybody wants, the idea that Kyle Orton can come in and guide the team over a few games will be reassuring rather than threatening to the Cowboys' current starter.

Orton, during his time with the Chiefs, Broncos and Bears, has thrown 80 touchdowns to 57 interceptions during his career. If you discount his rookie season, when he started 15 games throwing nine touchdowns to 13 interceptions, Orton has never thrown more interceptions than touchdowns in a whole season.

With 69 starts at 29 years of age, Kyle Orton appears to be the perfect backup for Tony Romo.

Backup, not replacement.