NFL Free Agency 2012: Campbell and Orton Proving the Value of Backup QBs

Cian FaheyFeatured ColumnistMarch 15, 2012

DENVER, CO - JANUARY 1: Kyle Orton #8 of the Kansas City Chiefs talks with an official during the game against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on January 1, 2012 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Garrett W. Ellwood/Getty Images)
Garrett Ellwood/Getty Images

The Dallas Cowboys and Chicago Bears have made a point of bringing in very talented backup quarterbacks in free agency after dealing with quarterback injuries last year. While Romo didn't miss a game, Jay Cutler was one of many quarterbacks to finish the season on IR, which significantly hurt his club's chances of making the playoffs.

In total, nine NFL teams finished the season with a different quarterback under center as a result of injury. Six more quarterbacks either played through significant injuries during the season or missed starts before returning to the team.

Last year, the Bears' chances of making the playoffs essentially died as soon as Caleb Hanie—and in turn Josh McCown—took over for Jay Cutler. Had Jason Campbell been on the roster, the Bears may not have won a Super Bowl, but they would have at least had a chance to make the playoffs.

Between Campbell and Orton, the two quarterbacks have started 139 games in the NFL.

More importantly, both players have had impressive seasons in recent years. Orton was outstanding for over a year in Denver prior to being released to make way for Tebowmania, while Jason Campbell was having his best season in the NFL before dislocating his shoulder as a Raider last year.

Both Campbell and Orton are capable of being NFL starters right now.

While that is first and foremost a representation of how talented and deep the quarterback pool is around the league, it also represents the importance of the backup position is today's NFL. Even though the Bears only gave Campbell a one-year deal, the Cowboys invested in Kyle Orton for three seasons.

Three seasons is a long time for a quarterback in Orton's situation. Realistically, he is tying himself down for too long because Tony Romo is the obvious starter in Dallas. That being said, Orton could easily come into the Cowboys' lineup and impress enough to attract attention from other teams as a starting quarterback.

Many fans were hoping that Orton would return to Kansas City after he filled in for Matt Cassel last year.

Despite the fact that Cassel is the team's starter, Orton was seen as a potentially better option for the team moving forward. Cassel is a former Pro Bowl quarterback, Orton is now the Cowboys' backup. In previous years, the gulf between a Pro Bowl quarterback and the Cowboys' backup would have been huge. However, not today.

With Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III entering the NFL this year and joining the vast number of impressive young quarterbacks who have joined the league in the past decade, the distance between an elite quarterback and a solid starter is shortening every year.

Once Peyton Manning, Luck and Griffin find their new homes, the worst starting quarterbacks in the league could actually be lesser players than some of the backups in the NFL and not so much better than the average backup. Considering it was only last year when the Colts struggled so mightily with Curtis Painter, that is saying a lot.