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March 14, 2012

Cowboys sign Kyle Orton to backup Tony Romo

The Cowboys wanted Kyle Orton last year after Jon Kitna hurt his back and Orton hit the waiver wire. It took a few months longer, but Dallas finally got his man. Orton agreed to a three-year deal with the Cowboys on Wednesday, according to sources.

Orton, 29, will be Tony Romo's primary backup. His arrival means Stephen McGee, who is in the final year of his rookie deal, will remain the third-string quarterback.

Cowboys coach Jason Garrett has shown a preference for veteran quarterbacks. He has had Brad Johnson and Kitna as Romo's backup. In the 13 games Romo has missed since 2008, the Cowboys are 6-7 with Johnson going 1-2, Kitna 4-5 and McGee 1-0.

"You need to allocate resources to the position," Garrett said at the NFL Scouting Combine last month. "Being a veteran guy with experience is certainly a plus. Stephen McGee has gotten valuable experience at the end of the last two seasons. He has played in games. He has won games for us. He has been involved in two-minute drives at the end of games and had success with those. He has had experience playing in college. He has played a lot of football. He has played more football the last couple of years. That is helping him.

"We understand the importance of the position. Jon Kitna did a great job for us.  When you think about Tony Romo missed the last 10 games of the 2010 season, Kitna was our quarterback. He really handled himself well as the leader of our team, playing the position. We thought it was a great value to having a guy like that. Stephen McGee is growing in to that position. But I wouldn't be surprised if we created more competition at that position, whether it was through free agency on through the draft to try to address that to try to make that position as good as you can make it."

Orton, who played for Cowboys quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson in Chicago, was the answer.

He arguably was the top backup quarterback on the free-agent market. A fourth-round pick of the Chicago Bears in 2005, he has gone 35-34 in 69 starts for the Bears, the Broncos and the Chiefs with 14,532 passing yards, 80 touchdowns and 57 interceptions.

-- Charean Williams

 

 

 

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