IRVING, Texas – The Cowboys need to know about Kyle Orton's future before next Thursday.
That's not a request or a threat from the team, it should just be more of a courtesy on Orton's part as the Cowboys prepare for the NFL Draft and decide whether or not to select a quarterback.
If Orton's not on the roster in 2014, that changes the scope of the quarterback situation in Dallas significantly, particularly with 34-year-old Tony Romo coming off back surgery. The Cowboys could use both short and long-term options behind their franchise quarterback.
If Orton's not on the roster in 2014, the Cowboys' backup behind Romo will either have 23 career touchdown passes and 26 interceptions (Brandon Weeden) or three touchdowns passes and 10 interceptions (Caleb Hanie). Orton, with 83 touchdown passes and 59 interceptions, provides comfort and stability that the others on the roster don't.
If Orton's not on the roster in 2014, the Cowboys have to know now or in the next week. They need to start thinking about the future of the position if Orton's no longer an option.
Romo's going to be the quarterback in Dallas for the foreseeable future and is being paid handsomely to do so. But Orton's presence determines when and whether or not the Cowboys should start thinking about grooming another young quarterback who can potentially take over in a few years.
If Romo were to experience more back issues and Orton's gone, Weeden's the new starting quarterback. And there would be no young, promising, highly-touted backup behind him if the Cowboys don't address the position at some point in the draft.
The Weeden deal made sense. They wanted to get a chance to develop the former Cleveland and Oklahoma State quarterback on an affordable contract because they liked him out of college. He provides NFL experience at a good rate as a backup, but the 30-year-old can't really be groomed as a long-term option as a future starter.
There should be multiple choices available in the middle rounds of this year's draft at quarterback, from Aaron Murray to Jimmy Garoppolo to Tom Savage to Zach Mettenberger and David Fales. By selecting one outside the first couple rounds, that player wouldn't need to be forced to step in immediately unless dictated by injuries. [embedded_ad]
If Orton stays, grabbing one isn't essential. But if Orton's gone and Romo can't stay healthy, it'd be encouraging to know if Weeden's starting at quarterback that there's another young option available for some point in the near future.
The Cowboys don't want to be stuck in another situation like they had in the early 2000s, with a revolving door at the most important position on the team.
At 31 years old, Orton's got enough good years ahead of him that the Cowboys wouldn't need to search for their future quarterback just yet. But if his future remains in the balance, now's the time to select and start grooming a young quarterback they can keep on the roster alongside Weeden.