BOURBONNAIS (MCT) — Kyle Orton was planning to head to training camp with the Cowboys this week. But now that he’s a free agent, he doesn’t necessarily intend to play again.
The Orton question has been posed recently by those questioning the Bears’ plan to choose between journeymen Jordan Palmer and Jimmy Clausen for the No. 2 quarterback job behind Jay Cutler, who missed 12 games over the past three seasons. Would the Bears consider bringing back Orton for a second tour?
It might not matter if the Bears have interest. Most in the NFL believe Orton will retire, even though Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said Wednesday that Orton intends to play in 2014.
It’s certainly possible Orton resurfaces, maybe at the end of the preseason, but he’s unlikely to find a situation like the one in Dallas, where his base salary was scheduled to be $3.25 million. If Orton had designs on playing this season, agent David Dunn presumably would have already reached out to the Bears, even though he also represents Palmer and Clausen. Dunn knows where quarterback jobs could spring open.
Orton’s curious exit from the Cowboys came after he skipped the entire offseason program, including mandatory minicamp. According to Dallas media, he consistently told the team he intended to retire. But had Orton walked away, the Cowboys could have recouped $3 million of his signing bonus.
So he skipped the offseason program and then informed the team he would head to training camp in Oxnard, Calif., to avoid a daily fine and the potential forfeiture of that signing bonus money. Instead of having a player who wasn’t fully invested with the program, the Cowboys released him.
Technically, Jones was correct in saying Orton intended to play this season; before he was released, yes, he was going to show at camp. The Cowboys have put a spin on the showdown, pointing out the $2.7 million in salary-cap space created by Orton’s release will aid their efforts to extend the contracts of wide receiver Dez Bryant and left tackle Tyron Smith.
The Bears have tried to re-acquire Orton twice since he was included in the 2009 trade with the Broncos for Cutler. They placed a waiver claim for him in November 2011 after Cutler went out with a broken thumb, but Orton was awarded to the Chiefs, for whom Bears general manager Phil Emery was the college scouting director at the time. Had the Bears landed Orton, perhaps he could have prevented that season from slipping away as the team lost five of its final six after a 7-3 start.
Emery pursued Orton a couple of months later in free agency, but he signed a three-year, $10.5 million contract with the Cowboys, and the Bears spent $3.5 million on Jason Campbell for one season. Last year, the Bears went the budget route behind Cutler with Josh McCown, and they’re headed down the same path again. One thought is the wealth of offensive talent around the quarterback should help the backup succeed if called upon.
Coach Marc Trestman mentioned Wednesday that sixth-round draft pick David Fales will also contend for the No. 2 job, but that seems like a long shot considering reps for the reserves will be few and far between when the team hits the practice field Friday.
The battle figures to be between Palmer and Clausen, with performances in exhibition games weighing significantly. Palmer remains in the lead position because he has been around longer, but if the Bears were convinced he’s the guy, they never would have added Clausen in June.
Cutler devoted a weekend to helping Clausen take a crash course on the playbook after he signed, a possible clue to the dynamics of the situation.
“I think I’ve got a good grasp of it right now,” Clausen said. “It’s just taking what I’ve been studying onto the field and having that translate into practice each and every play, getting in the right play, getting out of plays. It’ll be interesting to get on the field and get going.”
If one of the Bears’ current options steps up, there will be no need to consider the Orton question as the Sept. 7 opener approaches. If not, maybe they’ll have to perform due diligence.
But if Orton didn’t want to play in Dallas for more than $3 million this year, perhaps the man doesn’t want to play.
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