Cowboys position series: Quarterbacks

The first in ESPNDallas.com’s 12-part series:

Players: Tony Romo (signed through 2013), Jon Kitna (retiring), Stephen McGee (signed through 2012), Chris Greisen (exclusive rights free agent)

Top free agents: Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints; Matt Flynn, Green Bay Packers; Kyle Orton, Kansas City Chiefs; Chad Henne, Miami Dolphins; Alex Smith, San Francisco 49ers

Top draft prospects: Andrew Luck, Stanford; Robert Griffin III, Baylor; Ryan Tannehill, Texas A&M; Brock Osweiler, Arizona State; Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State

2011 review: Romo had arguably the best season of his career despite committing critical turnovers that were key to the Cowboys blowing double-digit leads in two early-season losses. He set a franchise record with a 102.5 passer rating, throwing for 4,184 yards and 31 touchdowns with only 10 interceptions. His success while playing with a broken rib should permanently end any questions about Romo’s toughness. McGee served as the backup after Kitna suffered a midseason back injury that ended up putting the veteran on the injured reserve. McGee played too conservatively in his only appearance, completing 24 of 38 passes for 182 yards and a late touchdown in a 20-7 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 16.

Offseason preview: Romo ranks among the least of the Cowboys’ problems, so the Cowboys certainly won’t be searching for his immediate replacement. Cowboys vice president Stephen Jones is on record saying the team would be comfortable with McGee as the backup, but Jason Garrett’s track record indicates he’d be much more comfortable with an experienced veteran in that role. Jason Campbell, David Garrard, Shaun Hill and Sage Rosenfels could be affordable options. The Cowboys might also be in the market for a quarterback in the mid-rounds of the draft if there’s a guy on the board they believe could develop into Romo’s replacement a few years down the road.

Bryan Broaddus' Scout's Eye: After sitting out the majority of the 2010 season, Romo's season didn't start out like he had planned. Losses to the Jets and Lions were directly placed at his feet because of critical interceptions and decision making. However, his play was outstanding as the season progressed, despite playing behind an offensive line that struggled with lineup changes at guard and a left tackle and wasn't playing at a high level.

It was Romo's ability to make plays with his feet that allowed this offense to have the success that they did. Romo was not the problem for the Cowboys in 2011, so the team's focus needs to be on who his backups will be in 2012. There is a need for a quarterback to compete with McGee. I respect how hard McGee works and prepares, but I haven't seen the growth that I thought I would. I have a feeling the Cowboys might be thinking the same thing, and I wouldn't be surprised to see them sign a veteran backup and draft another QB to compete with McGee for the third spot.

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