The heart of the free agency period has come and gone, leaving fans and media to evaluate each team's progress as the dust settles before the draft. Every team wants to address their personnel shortcomings, but not every problem can be fixed in one offseason.
The Cowboys are no different, and needed to prioritize free-agent acquisitions based on need and what positions could not also be fixed through the draft. Some signings received more attention than others, but one that flew under the radar has the most potential to help America's Team.
Backup quarterback signings don’t normally generate a lot of press. Fans rarely flock to the pro shop to buy the jersey of a guy they hope will never play a meaningful snap. Not surprisingly, the Cowboys do things a little differently.
In five seasons as a starter, Tony Romo has missed at least one game in two seasons, 13 games in total (that total would be higher if it had not been for a high-tech flak jacket designed to protect Romo’s ribs last season). It is almost guaranteed that the backup quarterback will need to start a game at some point.
Brad Johnson cost the team the playoffs in 2008 because he was unable to win a game against the Rams. Jon Kitna was good in 2010, but he had to retire after the 2011 season.
Quarterback is the most important position on any team, and Dallas is no exception. Knowing that their backup is going to play at some point, the team needed to find the best available option. Kyle Orton was by far the best quarterback on the market, and he was a priority to sign.
DeMarco Murray is the running back of the future, but has yet to prove himself to be effective when defenses scheme to stop the run. The Cowboys defense is not able to carry the team to a win, and Jason Garrett’s offense is predicated on throwing the ball. When Romo goes down, the opposing defense is going to walk a safety down into the box and dare the backup quarterback to beat them with his arm.
Orton will not be pushing Romo for playing time, but has shown that he is more than capable of completing his objective if called upon—forcing the defense to keep both safeties in the secondary to respect both the run and pass—especially with the receiving options now at his disposal.
You never know where the next impact player is going to come from. Romo’s signing in 2003 was barely reported in the newspapers, nor did Laurent Robinson’s signing at the beginning of last season make headlines. But both turned out to have an immense impact on the team. It might not seem like an important signing today, but Orton may have just saved the 2012 season.