This was not a move to make Romo perk up and play better. Orton is hardly a threat. Sure, he has started and won plenty of games in the NFL. But if he was playing at a high level, he wouldn't be signing to be someone's backup. In fact, he wouldn't have been a free agent at all.
Orton is insurance that so many teams don't have but desperately need -- especially if they want to make a deep playoff run.
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The Bears had their season ruined in 2010 when Jay Cutler went down with an injury and backup Caleb Hanie proved ill-equipped. The failure to have someone in place or to pursue someone like Donovan McNabb also factored into Jerry Angelo now being the team's former GM. (Like the Cowboys, the Bears upgraded their QB insurance policy this week by signing Jason Campbell to play behind Cutler.)
Orton provides more confidence and security entering the season, as well as relief in a worst-case scenario. What Orton won't do is fill Dallas' documented leadership void. If he did, then the Cowboys would be in real trouble. A backup quarterback commanding respect as a leader would expose a flaw much greater than any of us assumed.
Orton is about as low-key of a personality as there is, so galvanizing a locker room isn't really a key trait. This remains Romo's team.
Besides the obvious, signing Orton to a three-year deal adds some intrigue. Most veteran quarterbacks who've lost starting jobs want to position themselves to possibly start again. So they sign one-year deals like Campbell did with the Bears.
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Orton opted for financial and organizational security with a team that tried to claim him off waivers from Denver last season. Dallas, meanwhile, secured insurance for the foreseeable future.
More important than that, the Cowboys just added a potential trade asset. Suppose Romo gets injured and has to sit out three or four games next season. Orton steps in, goes 3-1 and plays well. Besides the inherent quarterback controversy that would arise simply because of the team and market, Orton's trade value would spike, giving the Cowboys a potential bargaining chip in the offseason.
Jerry Jones and Co. showed some nice foresight with the signing of Orton. It's hardly a big splash but the move could end up paying more dividends than expected.