ORLANDO – As far as the Cowboys are concerned, backup quarterback Kyle Orton will be returning to the team for the 2014 season.
While the veteran remains under contract, there has been speculation this offseason of his future, with some talks about possible retirement. Last month, owner Jerry Jones told reporters at the combine he wasn't sure of Orton's plans.
But here at the NFL's owners meetings in Orlando, Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said he's had prior discussions with Orton's agent, Dave Dunn, and has the feeling Orton is planning to play this year as expected.
"Yes, that's how I understand it," Stephen Jones said Monday morning in between league meetings at the Ritz-Carlton in Orlando. "I guess everyone reserves the right to change their mind. We've just talked to Dave briefly. We're assuming he's under contract and he is."
Orton's only start since the 2011 season occurred in last year's do-or-die season finale against the Eagles when Tony Romo suffered a back injury that required immediate surgery to repair a herniated disk.
Orton played well for the most part, finishing with 358 passing yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. But his last two throws of the season – an errant 2-point conversion pass that would've tied the game, and then a poorly-thrown slant pattern that was intercepted – ended up costing the Cowboys the game against the Eagles, and consequently the NFC East title.
With eight years of experience, Orton won't turn 32 until December. [embedded_ad] Ironically enough, he'll be the same age as the Cowboys' newest quarterback for about a month. Brandon Weeden, the two-year pro who was signed last week, turns 31 in October.
Stephen Jones Weeden's signing had nothing to do with the uncertain future of Orton, or to send any kind of message to the backup quarterback.
"Nothing," Jones said. "That was an opportunity. I think it was well-documented that we had him in our second round. That was a chance to get a quarterback – I know he's not young – but he's young as far as league years are concerned. We like him. But if he proves out he's worth developing, then we'll carry three, like we did with (Stephen) McGee for many years."
Romo is expected to be able to throw in the team's mini-camp in June, but might be limited in some of the OTA practices in May. Getting Weeden is also an extra arm for the practices, although the Cowboys acquire a fourth quarterback in either the draft or rookie free agency.