Updates from Wednesday, July 16
DallasCowboys.com's Rowan Kavner confirms:
The Dallas Cowboys are reportedly set to part ways with backup quarterback Kyle Orton as of Tuesday.
ESPN Insider Adam Schefter reported the news of Orton's release, along with the salary-cap implications of the potential transaction:
Orton saw limited time in his two seasons backing up Pro Bowler Tony Romo, playing in just four total games. When Romo was declared out for the 2013 regular-season finale against the NFC East rival Philadelphia Eagles, though, Orton got the start in an effort to win the divisional crown.
A woeful defense plagued Dallas all season, but Orton shouldered considerable blame for the 24-22 loss. Despite throwing for 358 yards and playing rather well for such a tough situation to be thrown into, Orton's final pass was an interception with less than two minutes remaining.
Nevertheless, the stellar performance offered evidence that Orton can still play in the NFL. The fact that he is only 31 years old also helps Orton's cause to find another team. CBSSports.com's Pat Kirwan referenced some potential destinations for Orton:
Provided Orton wants to continue his career, that is.
Orton didn't attend minicamp, was fined approximately $70,000 for skipping out and would have been fined $30,000 every day he missed of Cowboys training camp, per the Fort Worth Star-Telegram's Clarence Hill. This all stemmed from Orton contemplating retirement, even with at least a couple of good football years left, and Hill also weighed in on the situation:
It's difficult to tell whether Orton was hoping for greener pastures and a starting opportunity elsewhere, if he simply wanted to keep his signing bonus or if he is indeed ready to walk away from the game. Forecasting his future is anyone's best guess at this point, but at least Orton is free to choose his destination following his release.
The Cowboys will press onward with Romo atop the QB depth chart, followed by 2012 first-round pick of the Cleveland Browns Brandon Weeden. The ex-Browns signal-caller was the latest disaster under center in Cleveland, but Weeden may have a chance to develop and redeem his poor NFL beginnings with America's Team.
Weeden appears eager to put the past behind him, per DallasCowboys.com's David Helman:
The first few years I was putting so much pressure on myself, because I thought 'You’ve got to take over, you’ve got to start something that hadn’t been very good in the past and take it to the top,' and it’s hard to do that.
I think now that I can sit there and learn from a great player, I’ve got a great coaching staff I can learn from, I know the system so I’m comfortable there. I think just fine-tuning my craft and learning the ins and outs of the position.
At least there is some talent behind Romo to give Dallas some insurance at the most important position. What the Cowboys should really worry about in 2014 is how the backfield complements their passing attack—and whether the defense improves.
If Romo had more support from those areas, perhaps Dallas wouldn't fall short of expectations. Coming off a year in which they allowed the most points in the league and were 24th in rushing offense, quarterback seems among the most stable spots on the roster, now that this uncomfortable standoff with Orton has passed.
The NFC East appears wide open, but there are plenty of areas the team needs to address. Pressure will be as great as ever for the Cowboys to succeed after missing the playoffs the previous four seasons.