Dallas Cowboys sign coveted cornerback Carr, backup QB Orton

The Dallas Cowboys began free agency with a shopping list of needs. Two days into the signing period, they began checking them off.

Starting cornerback. Check.

Offensive guard. Check.

Fullback. Check.

Backup quarterback. Check.

The Cowboys signed four players Wednesday, led by a pair of former Kansas City Chiefs. Quarterback Kyle Orton was the first free agent to sign with Dallas, and cornerback Brandon Carr created the most buzz.

The Cowboys also signed former Carolina Panthers offensive guard Mackenzy Bernadeau and former Houston Texans fullback Lawrence Vickers.

They aren't done either.

The Cowboys entertained former Carolina Panthers inside linebacker Dan Connor on Wednesday, along with former New York Jets safety Brodney Pool. Cincinnati Bengals guard Nate Livings is expected to visit.

But they will have to replace two other players. Martellus Bennett signed a one-year, $2.5 million deal with the New York Giants on Wednesday. The Cowboys also lost their No. 3 wide receiver, Laurent Robinson, who signed a five-year, $32.5 million contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones wasn't exaggerating when he said his team would be "active" in free agency.

Even the $10 million cap hit the Cowboys took from the Management Council Executive Committee on the eve of free agency didn't derail the team's efforts to improve their roster after back-to-back, nonwinning seasons.

Carr was the biggest catch.

The Cowboys rolled out the red carpet for their top target Tuesday night at Cowboys Stadium. Then, they showed him how much they loved him a day later with a five-year, $50.1 million deal.

He got a better contract than some of the other top cornerbacks on the market who signed new deals this week. Cortland Finnegan left the Tennessee Titans for the St. Louis Rams' offer of a five-year, $50 million contract; Carlos Rogers stayed in San Francisco for a four-year, $31.3 million deal; and Eric Wright departed Cleveland for Tampa Bay and a five-year, $37.5 million contract.

Carr, who turns 26 in May, had 237 tackles, one forced fumble, six fumble recoveries, 65 pass breakups and eight interceptions in his four seasons with the Chiefs.

"I'm ecstatic," Carr told the Cowboys' website. "It's been a long, long time, and I've been waiting for this opportunity to not only secure myself financially, but also to elevate my game to be at the highest level, which is the Dallas Cowboys. Now it's time to turn my game up another notch."

Orton, 29, will replace Jon Kitna as the team's primary backup to Tony Romo.

He arguably was the top backup quarterback on the free-agent market.

A fourth-round pick of the Chicago Bears in 2005, he is 35-34 in 69 starts for the Bears, Broncos and Chiefs with 14,532 passing yards, 80 touchdowns and 57 interceptions.

His arrival means Stephen McGee, who is in the final year of his rookie deal, will remain the third-string quarterback.

Cowboys coach Jason Garrett has shown a preference for veteran quarterbacks.

He has had Brad Johnson and Kitna as Romo's primary backup. In the 13 games Romo has missed over the past four seasons, the Cowboys are 6-7 with Johnson going 1-2, Kitna 4-5 and McGee 1-0.

Vickers will replace Tony Fiammetta as the team's fullback.

The Cowboys have had only one 1,000-yard rusher the past 10 seasons, and Vickers has blocked for four in his six seasons with Cleveland and Houston.

"I've been smiling since I got here," Vickers said in a phone interview. "...It's going to be wonderful."

Jones likely felt the same way after Wednesday's flurry of signings. The Cowboys may be on their way.

Staff writer Clarence E. Hill Jr. contributed to this report.

Charean Williams


Twitter: @NFLCharean

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