Cowboys explain Kyle Orton decision

OXNARD, Calif. -- All offseason the Dallas Cowboys operated under the notion that Kyle Orton would be their backup quarterback in 2014 even if he failed to show up for the entire offseason program, including the mandatory minicamp.

When Orton told the Cowboys he would report to training camp, the Cowboys decided to cut the veteran the week before they flew to California.

It’s all very curious and does not mean Orton wants to continue his career. It means he wanted to make sure he wouldn’t be fined $30,000 a day for skipping any part of training camp or have to repay any of the signing bonus money he received from the Cowboys had he retired.

“Both parties agreed that it wasn’t the best situation for him to be back with our football team,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “We had good visits, good deep conversations with him throughout the process. We both agreed it was best for us to move on without him. Wish him nothing but the best. Did a fantastic job for us in the role that he was in the last couple of years. Really played very hard and very well in that Week 17 game against Philadelphia when Tony [Romo] was hurt and I have a great deal of respect for him. We make a lot of decisions about players on our football team. The guiding principle always is do what’s best for the Dallas Cowboys. And we made that decision.”

The Cowboys gained roughly $2.7 million in cap space by cutting Orton, but will lose out on Orton re-paying any of the signing bonus money because they chose to cut him, and he could choose to play elsewhere. A source said Orton has operated with the idea of retirement all offseason.

The Cowboys weighed the possibility of having a quarterback not invested in the program and not in shape after skipping the offseason. They did not want to run the risk of Orton getting hurt, which would have cost them not only cash but cap space. Owner and general manager Jerry Jones said the strong showing of Brandon Weeden in the spring played a part in the club’s decision.

“That was pretty good stuff,” Jones said. “Does he have a lot to do to be where let’s say Kyle Orton might have been starting against San Francisco? Yes, he’s got a lot of work to do and we know that. On the other hand, he does a lot of good things as well. So combination of someone else having an opportunity, taking advantage of it. It’s kind of a mantra for what’s going to go on out here during training camp. You need to be out there, you need to be on the field, you need to be doing your best every play or somebody else can step up there. That was all alive and well in this decision.”