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Thursday, January 17
Cowboys make offer to ex-Stanford quarterback

By Len Pasquarelli

Despite the contention of owner Jerry Jones that he is satisfied with the Dallas Cowboys' quarterback depth chart, ESPN.com has confirmed that the team has made a formal contract offer to Chad Hutchinson, the former Stanford signal-caller who has played baseball the last four years.

Sources close to Hutchinson declined to discuss parameters of the proposal, but acknowledged it is a long-term offer that includes a seven-figure signing bonus. The Dallas Morning News said the deal is for seven years with a $2 million signing bonus.

Dallas has been among several teams that have considered signing Hutchinson, who worked out for NFL scouts at an invitation-only audition two months ago. Cowboys coaches and scouts also worked out Hutchinson individually.

Jones said at the end of the season that he is committed to Quincy Carter, the second-round pick in the 2001 draft, as the starter when the team enters training camp. Carter demonstrated marked improvement in the final month of the season, after battling through injuries, and displayed good physical tools.

The Cowboys have three other quarterbacks -- Ryan Leaf, Anthony Wright and Clint Stoerner -- on their roster. Jones and head coach Dave Campo are in the midst of interviewing candidates for the offensive coordinator vacancy created by the reassignment of Jack Reilly last week. It is not known if the eventual coordinator will factor into the Cowboys' pursuit of Hutchinson.

Jones is anxious to alter the offensive design and the favorites for the coordinator position are Galen Hall and Ted Tollner.

Hutchinson, 24, started 23 games for Stanford in 1996 and '97, and completed 379 of 627 passes for 4,235 yards, with 22 touchdown passes and 10 interceptions. He was the most valuable player in the '96 Sun Bowl game and has prototype size, pocket stature and arm strength. When he departed Stanford, football coach Tyrone Willingham said Hutchinson "very definitely" would have been a high-round pick in the NFL had he continued his football career.

Instead he was chosen by the baseball St. Louis Cardinals in the second round of the '98 draft, the 48th prospect selected overall, and signed a four-year, $3.5 million contract that included a $2.4 million signing bonus. Hutchinson had been chosen by the Atlanta Braves in the first round of the '95 draft, but declined the team's $1.5 million signing bonus offer so that he could attend Stanford and play both sports.

Hutchinson spent his first three baseball seasons in the minor leagues, where he posted impressive strikeout totals at every level but also exhibited long bouts of wildness, then made the Cardinals' opening-day roster in 2001. His stay in the major leagues, though, was brief, as he appeared in just three games and pitched only four innings.

Once groomed to be St. Louis' closer of the future, he was 0-3 with an earned-run average of 24.75, and he allowed nine hits, six walks and 11 earned runs. Hutchinson returned to the Cardinals' Triple-A affiliate, the Memphis Redbirds, in April.

He immediately moved into the starting rotation at Memphis, then to the bullpen later in the year, but finished the season on the disabled list. It marked the second straight year in which he spent time on the disabled list with soreness in his right elbow.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

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