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Kyle Orton first among second-string QBs

Subtlety isn't a trait that typically describes the Dallas Cowboys, but the team's decision to sign Kyle Orton as its backup quarterback was, quietly, one of the best moves of the offseason.

Like Jon Kitna before him, Orton comes to town with a pedigree as a veteran who will allow the Cowboys to keep their game plan intact if Tony Romo were to go down, as he did in 2010.

"I am excited we have him," owner Jerry Jones said at OTAs last week, according to The Dallas Morning News. "I was excited when we signed him. I think he is very capable of starting in the league. And we know we don't want to think about it, but if you're going to have Romo out there under center, then you have to give yourself the best chance. And I think he does that."

That got us thinking: Who are the top five backup quarterbacks in the NFL?

Think of this list as a ranking of players you'd want to step into the lineup in Week 1 if necessary, as Matt Cassel did so effectively for Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in 2008. Don't traffic in upside here -- Ryan Tannehill's potential in a year or two won't help you in four months. Who would be a good fit right now?

5. T.J. Yates: It was assumed the Houston Texans were toast when Matt Schaub and Matt Leinart went down last season, but Yates stepped in as a rookie and showed serious potential. He led the team to a huge come-from-behind win on the road in Cincinnati in the regular season, then beat the Bengals again in a playoff game. He struggled badly in a loss to the Baltimore Ravens in the divisional round, but he's a promising player who doesn't shrink from the moment.

4. Jake Locker: Tennessee Titans coach Mike Munchak has made it an open QB competition in Tennessee, so Locker might not be eligible for the list much longer. The Titans let Locker transition into the NFL as a rookie last season, and working behind a solid veteran like Matt Hasselback had to help his development. The eighth overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft showed us a hint of his ability in some late-season work and should be ready for the call when it comes.

3. Tim Tebow: We're sure some of you think Tebow should be No. 1 on this list, while others probably don't think he should be here at all. But like Yates, Tebow proved with the Denver Broncos that the stage won't overwhelm him, as we witnessed in overtime against the Pittsburgh Steelers in January. I dropped him here because the New York Jets -- like the Broncos last season -- would likely have to re-work their game plan significantly if Tebow were to replace Mark Sanchez.

2. Jason Campbell: We all know Campbell got a raw deal last year with the Oakland Raiders. He was playing well and had the Raiders in first place when a collar-bone injury -- and a trade for Carson Palmer -- led to his banishment from the Black Hole. He's landed with the Chicago Bears, who obviously learned their lesson last season about having a capable understudy behind Jay Cutler. Campbell has a big arm, and could form a potent tandem with Brandon Marshall if ever given the chance.

1. Kyle Orton: Some teams in the NFL are lucky to have one legitimate quarterback on their roster. The Cowboys have two. Forget Tebowmania blowing him out of Denver last year; Orton averaged nearly 3,500 yards passing with 20 touchdowns, 11 interceptions and an 85 passer rating in his previous three seasons. He's a huge luxury for coach Jason Garrett; frankly, we're surprised Orton settled on taking a backup job.

Honorable mention: Chad Henne (Jacksonville Jaguars), Shaun Hill (Detroit Lions), David Garrard (Miami Dolphins), Vince Young (Buffalo Bills).

Disagree? I bet. Let's see your list below.

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