With Jon Kitna announcing he will retire and not return for a 16th NFL season, it leaves the Cowboys looking for an experienced backup to Tony Romo. Stephen McGee and Chris Greisen are both heading into their 4th NFL seasons, but neither is considered the best option at this point if Romo were to go down for the season. The Cowboys would prefer someone with a little more experience. So, let’s look at the free agents that will be available this off-season and see if we can guess who the Cowboys will go after.
While the following players are technically free agents, I think we can safely rule these guys out as backups. Either they get re-signed as starters for their current teams or they get a starting QB spot on another NFL team.
- Drew Brees – the Saints are not crazy – pay the man;
- Alex Smith – has been reborn in SF – they will re-sign him;
- Matt Flynn – will continue to back up Rodgers or will get a starting job on another team if he manages to get away from GB;
- Jason Campbell – will battle Carson Palmer for the starting job in Oakland (or Carson will battle Jason in light of the new GM);
- Kyle Orton – unlikely to return to Denver but probably still able to compete for a starting job somewhere. The Cowboys tried to get him on waivers this season but were beaten out by Kansas City with a higher waiver position. He would be a good choice if they could get him at the right price but unlikely.
Without going through all 28 of the remaining free agents quarterbacks (excluding the restricted FAs), here are some thoughts on players I could see getting a hard look from the Cowboys.
- David Garrard – FA. He sat out last year after unexpectedly being cut by the Jaguars; he would still like to get a starting gig but probably understands his best opportunity lies with catching on as a backup at this stage of his career. Many people were surprised at his release since he was slated to be the Jags starter coming out of pre-season. He would be a very capable backup for Romo.
- Byron Leftwich – Pittsburgh. Coming off IR in 2011, will compete with both Charlie Batch and Dennis Dixon (also FAs) for the backup job to Rothlisberger. Pittsburgh will only keep 2 of these 3 with Batch likely the odd man out due to his age, but he’s currently listed as the #2 QB ahead of Dixon on the depth chart. Whoever doesn’t make the team might be a good option for backup in Dallas.
- A.J. Feeley – St. Louis. Currently the backup to Sam Bradford but with 2 other QBs on the current roster (Kellen Clemens - also a FA – and Tom Brandstater) the Rams may decide the older Feeley is expendable. Was at one point the starter for the Dolphins – could be a great choice if the Rams let him go.
- Chad Henne – Miami. With the change in coaching staffs and the emergence of Matt Moore late in 2011, the Dolphins may be prepared to part ways with Henne and go with Moore and JP Losman (also a FA) at QB. Assuming Henne is able to fully rehab from his season-ending shoulder injury, he could be a solid candidate for a backup role.
From what I see, that’s about it. There are a bunch of other free agents – some will return for another year and some won’t – but these are the handful that might be the best option for the Cowboys in my opinion. Or, do they take their chances with McGee and save the money and the roster spot? The odds of Romo starting every game in 2012 like most other NFL quarterbacks are not good – so McGee will have to be prepared to do more than hold a clipboard. The Cowboys will not only need to put a body on the field but need it to be someone with the ability to deliver a win or three along the way. So, fans, what do you think of these choices? Who would you target? Or, would you take your chances with McGee? Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Go Cowboys!