According to Todd Archer of ESPN, the Dallas Cowboys were one of three teams to place a waiver claim on former Denver Bronco’s quarterback Kyle Orton on Wednesday. That claim was awarded to the Kansas City Chiefs later that day because of their lower win/loss record. But what does this attempted claim say about the current status of the Cowboy’s back-up quarterback situation?
Before trying to understand the reasoning behind such a pick-up, you first have to know what it would have cost the cap-stricken Cowboys. Dallas had serious problems with their salary cap this season, resulting in the release of some veteran players and the restricting of contracts for others. If Dallas had won the waiver claim for Orton, they would have been fiscally responsible for the $2.6 million left on his contract for the rest of the season. Orton will become a free agent at the end of the year and Dallas would have received a compensatory pick in the 2012 NFL Draft if he signed on elsewhere. Dallas was relatively conservative through the NFL’s free agency period. Their two biggest acquisitions were wideout Laurent Robinson and safety Abram Elam. So the waiver claim came as a bit of a surprise for a team who did so much to clear cap space.
But more importantly, what does the attempted pick-up of Kyle Orton say about the Cowboys current quarterback situation? Two messages were sent loud and clear on Wednesday: the injury to back-up quarterback Jon Kitna is more serious than previously thought, and the team does not believe that former Aggie Stephen Mcgee is the future for that position.
According to ESPN’s Tim MacMahon, Owner and GM Jerry Jones confirmed on Thursday that Kitna’s condition was one of the primary reasons that Dallas attempted to pick up Orton. Kitna has been struggling with a bad back for over two weeks. In the past, the injury has responded well to treatment. This no longer seems to be the case and Kitna appears to be on the edge of hitting the Injury Reserved list. This is his final contract year with the Cowboys.
McGee was a 4th round pick for the Cowboys back in 2009. He’s only played in two regular season games. One of them being a 17-16 win over the Philadelphia Eagles last season. McGee has shown flashes of ability when given an opportunity, especially in the preseason. But he’s still has a long way to go before taking up the mantle of a starter in the NFL. And clearly, Dallas thinks that he may never reach that goal. There is simply no reason to pick-up a high priced replacement for an the ailing Kitna if you think your next great Cowboys QB is waiting in the wings.
The Cowboys will clearly be in the hunt for a quarterback of the future in next year’s draft. Or at least they should be. Current starting quarterback Tony Romo is only 30 years old. But if he is unable to lead the team deep into the playoffs within the next two years, his days in Dallas will be numbered. Especially considering his contract expires after 2013. And there is no way the Cowboys want to be in the same position they were when Troy Aikman retired back in 2001. Do I really have to say the name Chad Hutchinson again?
This year’s crop of young quarterbacks has turned out relativity well for NFL teams. Rookies like Cam Newton and Andy Dalton have changed the fates of their franchises. And others like Christian Ponder and Jake Locker have shown promise. The upcoming draft is expected to feature some big name quarterback prospects as well. The crown jewel of the draft will be Standford’s Andrew Luck. I wrote a much criticized article a while back about the reasons why Jones should bet the farm to get Luck in next years draft. (Click this link to read it) But other QB prospects like Baylor’s Robert Griffin III, Oklahoma’s Landry Jones, or USC’s Matt Barkley could be available for the Cowboys to pick up later in the draft.