Romo is coming off of two back surgeries in the past year and that must be worrisome for the Cowboys. 105.3 The Fan's Mike Fisher has reported that the Cowboys are thinking about finding Romo's replacement:
#cowboys have been thinking about a fresh QB totem pole (under Romo, heirs to Romo) since the moment of his season-ending surgery— mike fisher (@fishsports) March 14, 2014
In mid-March the Cowboys signed former Cleveland Brown Brandon Weeden to a two-year deal worth $1.23 million. While this move was seen to just be a low-risk investment, it has taken on new significance with the news of Kyle Orton no showing the first day for the offseason program. This has reignited the speculation that Orton may end up retiring.
The Dallas Morning News' David Moore believes this no-show raises a red flag:
Kyle Orton’s absence from the first day of the offseason workout program raises a red flag for the Cowboys. The workouts are voluntary. But sources said the backup quarterback did not inform club officials that he would fail to be at Valley Ranch with the rest of his teammates on Monday. The no-show takes on more weight given Orton’s apparent flirtation with retirement this off-season and raises the question of whether this is a negotiating ploy.
This would leave the Cowboys with two quarterbacks who are at least 30 years old. The Cowboys would be wise in investing in a quarterback through the draft.
The first benefit of drafting a quarterback this year is that the new quarterback wouldn't have to play right away. The quarterback would have the benefit of sitting back and learning from Romo and possibly Weeden. This would allow head coach Jason Garrett and quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson to be able to mold the young quarterback and make sure he develops into the type of signal-caller who can thrive in the Cowboys system.
@BElliott6388 Nope. Would sit for a year and then take the reigns. Now one of the benefits to drafting a QB is he’s dirt cheap for 5 years— Terez A. Paylor (@TerezPaylor) April 13, 2014
The next benefit to drafting a quarterback is that the Cowboys would get a player at a premium position that is very cheap. Because of the new rookie wage scale, the investment in drafting a quarterback is not very high. For example, the Jacksonville Jaguars drafted Blaine Gabbert with the No. 10 overall pick in the 2011 draft. They just recently traded him to the San Francisco 49ers and carry only $3.8 million in dead money. This is a very modest cap charge in relation to how much dead money the Jaguars would have had if there was no rookie wage scale.
This is a way to "beat the system" in regards to the salary cap. USA Today's Steven Ortiz reported that on average quarterbacks take up 7.5 percent of a team's salary cap. However in 2013, Russell Wilson of the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks accounted for less then one percent of the teams total salary cap. This means they were able to spend 6.5 percent more salary-cap dollars on other positions on the team.
Historically it is very difficult for a team to win the Super Bowl when a quarterback takes up more then ten percent of a team's salary cap. Ortiz reported that only four teams have won the Super Bowl while doing this since the salary cap was instated in 1994. This is because these teams have less money to pay players at other positions and that leads to major holes on a team that typically get exploited.
While six quarterbacks have won the Super Bowl in seasons where they took up less then two percent of the salary cap. Out of the teams that have won the Super Bowl, quarterbacks on average take up only 6.24 percent of the salary cap.
ESPN Dallas' Calvin Watkins reported that the Cowboys are open to drafting a quarterback:
Before leaving the Senior Bowl practices, Dallas Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said the team is open to drafting a quarterback this spring. "You always have to be open to that," Jones said. "Yeah, and whether it’s a guy ultimately one day, your future, even if its at some point it enables you to not have a better (more expensive) backup, that saves you money if you’re able to get on a guy like that, so we’re always open to it."
Now this leaves us with the 2014 NFL draft class. The Cowboys are lucky because it seems this draft has a plethora of quarterback prospects who could have good value in Rounds 2-4 and could develop into good starting quarterbacks.
One mid-round quarterback the Cowboys have expressed interest in is Aaron Murray. Watkins reported that the Cowboys sent quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson to Georgia's pro day to watch Murray go through his workout. This is significant because this is the only pro day Wilson has attended outside of Texas.
Murray has a lot of traits that could lead to him developing into a very solid quarterback:
...courage under pressure, movement in pocket, situational execution, multiple pro-style offense.....Aaron Murray, Georgia.— Louis Riddick (@LRiddickESPN) April 11, 2014
At the moment, Murray is being projected anywhere from the late second round to the fourth round. If the Cowboys are able to snag him in the fourth, Murray could end up being the steal of the draft.
Another mid-round quarterback option for the Cowboys could be David Fales.
Fales comes from a relatively small school in San Jose State but he put up impressive numbers. In 2013, Fales threw for 4,189 yards and 33 touchdowns. While it is very risky to judge quarterback by their college numbers, especially one whose numbers were likely inflated due to inferior competition, it shows that he at least has the ability to throw the ball decently.
Fales is by no means ready today to start for an NFL franchise, and he would likely fail if he was asked to do so. However, with some patience and experience, Fales could develop into a quality starter in the NFL.
The Rookie Scouting Portfolio's Matt Waldman believes that Fales is a great developmental prospect:
If the rookie was forced to start in the NFL today, teams would force him to make plays beyond the limitations of his range and he would look like a sub par player. However, give Fales 2-3 years to integrate this footwork into every throw, add some muscle, and gain more understanding of more complex defensive looks, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if this prospect offers value to a team as a primary backup.
And if the arm strength gets a lot better, I wouldn’t be shocked if Fales knocks on the door of that NFL starter club.
If the Cowboys drafted Fales, he would be in a great position to sit and get those two to three years to develop and become a quality NFL starting quarterback.
Their are also options late in the draft for Dallas. Prospects like Wyoming's Brett Smith and Garrett Gilbert of SMU both have potential to be starting-level quarterbacks in the NFL, if they are allowed the time to develop.
The Cowboys already hit a home run when undrafted free agent Tony Romo became a franchise quarterback. Its about time that Dallas stepped to the plate and took another swing.