Timing of Kyle Orton's release a surprise

IRVING, Texas -- Even though Kyle Orton skipped the offseason program, the Dallas Cowboys believed he would eventually show up for the June minicamp. When he failed to show up for the minicamp, Jason Garrett spoke optimistically that the backup quarterback would show up for training camp.

On Tuesday, the Cowboys decided to release Orton.

For all of the threats of coming after his signing bonus money if Orton retired, which could have been up to $3.4 million, or docking his base salary nearly $150,000 for skipping a physical, the minicamp and the workouts, the Cowboys decided having a player, especially a quarterback, not fully vested in the program was not worth it.

My initial reaction is surprise. My second reaction is: why not do this sooner?

Orton made it clear what his intentions were. He didn’t want to play football anymore. But with training camp fast approaching and a daily fine of $30,000 staring him in the face, he was preparing to come to Oxnard, California, next week.

The Cowboys will save $3.25 million in salary-cap space this year, which opens up more room for potential deals for Tyron Smith and/or Dez Bryant. Orton will count roughly $2.25 million against the cap next year, which he would have counted whether he played this year or not.

If Orton had retired, he would have had to pay back the signing bonus money on the $5 million he received in 2012 and the $510,000 restructuring of his deal in 2013. He wasn’t about to pay back that money and call it a career. He would have showed up for camp. Had he missed the first six days of camp, then the Cowboys could have come after parts of the $1.127 million signing bonus proration in 2014.

Orton was hardly unprofessional in his two years. He served as a sounding board for Tony Romo and other teammates as the backup. He played well in his one start last season, despite his fourth-quarter turnover. It was much better than people could have anticipated even though the Cowboys lost the NFC East title game to the Philadelphia Eagles.