The Cowboys finally released Kyle Orton, because the backup quarterback planned to show up for training camp to avoid repaying the $3 million he owed the team in signing bonus money.
Orton told the Cowboys the entire off-season that he intends to retire. The Cowboys finally lost the game of chicken, though, wanting to avoid the distraction that would have come had Orton shown up in Oxnard after missing the entire off-season.
“We appreciate all that he contributed in his role the two years that he was on our roster,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said. “We really didn’t have to get to the decision that we ultimately made to release him since he was retiring during the entire off-season. So we didn’t have to get to that point. Once he gave an indication that he was not going to retire and come back with all the other aspects of not having participated in the spring work that we did and what have you, then it was decision time on our part.”
Orton walked away from the $3.25 million he had been scheduled to make this season, but he won’t have to repay any of the $5 million in bonus money the Cowboys paid him for two years and one start.
“We had good visits, good deep conversations with him throughout the process,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “We both agreed it was best for us to move on without him. Wish him nothing but the best. He did a fantastic job for us in the role that he was in the last couple of years. He 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.”
Brandon Weeden will be Romo’s backup this season.
Jones said the Cowboys could use some of the money they saved on Orton to sign Dez Bryant and/or Tyron Smith to contract extensions.
“It’s all fungible,” Jones said. “It will go to that and other things. A dollar that you’re not paying to a player or under one contract does not have a single place to go or a single goal. We know how that works. Certainly, to the extent that we can do some things with some key players, such as Dez Bryant, we can do some things with Tyron, we will do that. But it also keeps your powder dry to do something if you get an opportunity as you go into the season. I wouldn’t preclude that at all. We’re in the business of using those resources and can. We’ve made some pretty dramatic decisions – not the least of which was DeMarcus Ware. We made some pretty dramatic decisions that… made available a lot of money. That will continue to happen when we go young, and we take some of these contracts on some of these higher-priced veterans and make it available. That’s the direction we’re headed in, in most cases.”