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Spagnola: Maybe The Sweetheart Deal Of The Year


IRVING, Texas – Talk about what could become a sweetheart deal.

         Sweetheart for the Dallas Cowboys.

         Sweetheart for the Cleveland Browns.

         And most of all sweetheart for Brandon Weeden, attempting to restart his two-year NFL career derailed in Cleveland.

         Universally sweetheart, I say, if Weeden ends up the backup quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys for the next two seasons, or at the very least makes the 53-man roster as even the third guy.

         Let's analyze.

         First, let's play "what if?"

         What if Cowboys veteran backup quarterback Kyle Orton, for whatever reason – decides to retire, is traded (hey, maybe for a middle linebacker if necessary) or continues to withhold services to the point of becoming unproductive, then the Cowboys have a viable backup alternative in Weeden, the Browns' former first-round pick in 2012 who has started 20 of the 23 games he's played in the NFL. After all, the Cowboys were high on the former Oklahoma State quarterback when he came out in the draft three seasons ago.

         What if Weeden, currently reaping the benefits of the Cowboys still running Tony Romo this offseason under the yellow flag and Orton stubbornly refusing to attend these voluntary workouts by getting first-team snaps during the 11-on-11 and 7-on-7 drills these past two weeks, proves capable of becoming the team's backup, Orton or no Orton.

         Then they would have found a backup quarterback for a minimum third-year base salary of $570,000 this year and a minimum fourth-year base salary $660,000 in 2015 … without having to gamble any sort of guarantees. Basically a free look-see from the start.

         Sweet, right?

         Now don't think the Cowboys are taking financial advantage of Weeden, cut by the Browns on March 12 when they basically had decided he wasn't their guy and would use one of their two first-round picks in the 2014 draft on a quarterback, which they did. See Johnny Football. Weeden's too smart for that.

         See, Weeden will make his money from his rookie deal, basically a fully-guaranteed four-year $8.1 million contract as the 22nd pick in the draft. The Browns paid him half of that in signing bonus, $4.3 million, guaranteed base salaries in the first three years and $920,000 in the fourth. That means, no matter what happens this year and next in Dallas or anywhere else, Weeden will make his scheduled $1.12 million base this year and at least $920,000 next. So if we were his financial advisors, that's a win-win, right?

         Sweet again, no?

         And from the Browns' standpoint, they have become even bigger Weeden fans, probably hoping Orton, at a quarterback-youthful age of 31, hangs 'em, up, opening the door wide for their former first-round pick to become the Cowboys' legit backup. That means, from a salary cap standpoint, the Browns benefit because of the offsets in Weeden's deal. What would have cost the Browns $1.12 million in guaranteed base if Weeden chose to sit home and do nothing, now reduces to $554,872, the difference between what he is owed and what he would make from the Cowboys, and would reduce from $920,000 to $260,000 the next year.

         Again, sweet.

         All around, right?

         The Cowboys get a potential backup at minimum wage.

         The Browns at least have a chance to wiggle out of some guaranteed moolah.

         And no matter what, Weeden gets his money, from one source or two, and the chance to prove whatever happened in Cleveland wasn't all his fault.

         Sometimes being 30 years old is not all bad, beating down immaturity and potentially greed if all Weeden had been looking for was another big payday – if available.

And evidently, Weeden did have choices. Reportedly Baltimore and Cincinnati were interested in hi services. But he chose the Cowboys.

How come? Why, Romo is entrenched as the starter. Orton, at least we thought at the time, was entrenched as the veteran backup. And the Cowboys hadn't traditionally kept three quarterbacks on the roster.

Well, according to Weeden, lots of reasons.

First, it was a chance to learn from a successful veteran quarterback, something he was not afforded in Cleveland. Says he's been like a sponge around Romo, asking all the whys and why-nots.

"I'm sure I'm getting on his nerves," says Weeden, although knowing Romo he probably relishes the opportunity to tell the kid (OK, I forgot, he's 30) everything he knows.

And also, he has a chance to learn the position from his head coach, a guy who went from the Cowboys practice squad to a 12-year NFL career as a backup quarterback. And from his position coach, too, quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson having gone from East Texas State to a 19-year NFL career as a starter and backup.

"What better situation can you have?" Weeden asked.

         Next, Dallas is close to home, Weeden from Edmond, Okla., having of course played his college ball at Oklahoma State following a four-year sojourn into professional baseball as a pitcher. He and wife Melanie, from Moore, Okla., have plenty of family back in Oklahoma and in the North Texas area. Plus, they are about to have a baby in July, making family even more important.

         "Proximity (to home) was important," Weeden said.

         Then there was the Cowboys offensive system, an off-shoot of what Garrett learned from former Cowboys offensive coordinator Norv Turner, who was Weeden's offensive coordinator this past season in Cleveland.

         "One of the reasons this place was so attractive," Weeden said, referring to the system carryover from last season.

         And then there was this:

         "(Garrett) promised me a chance to compete," Weeden said.

         That's right, compete not for the starting job, of course, but for the backup job with Orton. See, in Weeden's mind, he wasn't just coming here for the minimum base to simply assume the third quarterback job if he proved worthy of a roster spot. He was told nothing was being given or assumed.

         And who knows, maybe back on March 17 when the Cowboys signed Weeden, they already were sensing *something is rotten in the state of Denmark *when it came to Orton, making them feel a tad queasy over the backup quarterback role. And Who Knows II, maybe the signing of Weeden created some security anxiety for Orton, thinking, ah ha, my days might be numbered, I might need to find me a different gig since I'm in the final year of my contract and they just brought in this guy.

         Whatever, this much we know. Weeden has been getting those invaluable first-team snaps in OTAs. He's also shown the Cowboys in the six OTA practices, with three more to go this coming week and the three-day minicamp the next, that he certainly has the arm to assume the backup job and the ability to run this offense. Seasoning and decision-making will be his next major hurdle, and Orton's absence can only help his cause.

         The Cowboys value Weeden's maturity and willingness to work. The former first-round pick hasn't come in here big-timing anyone. He wants to learn, even at the age of 30 when most think they already know it all.

"I'm still learning," Weeden says. "I haven't had that guy who has been the guy like (Romo) that I can learn from and take in those valuable lessons." [embedded_ad]

         Also, there isn't much thread on his quarterbacking tires. Just two years in the league and says he barely got hit while running the Oklahoma State offense.

         "I'm 30 but feel 24," Weeden says.

         See what I'm sayin'? It's all good. Soooo good.

         Just darn sweet all around. No matter what happens.

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