The Dallas Cowboys released backup quarterback Kyle Orton on July 15. The release frees up $1.1 million in dead money which will be added to the Cowboys' 2014 salary cap.
"The Kyle Orton saga is over. The Cowobys made Orton's release official Wednesday, leaving Brandon Weeden and Caleb Hanie as the main backups to Tony Romo. Orton missed all the offseason activities with the Cowboys, losing some money in the process, but some believed he'd eventually return to the team for training camp.
"That didn't end up happening, and the Cowboys will now move forward without their primary backup. Romo's coming off one of his better seasons in the league, throwing 31 touchdown passes to just 10 interceptions, but he's also coming off a major back surgery.
"This is the first season in Dallas for Weeden, the former 2012 first-round pick and starter for Cleveland, who hopes to rejuvenate his career in Dallas, and Caleb Hanie. Undrafted rookie Dustin Vaughan was also added to the roster this offseason."
By virtue of Orton's release, the Cowboys added $1.1 million in dead money to their salary cap for the upcoming season, per The Dallas Morning News' Jon Machota:
"The Dallas Cowboys made it official Wednesday. They have released Kyle Orton.
"Orton, who signed with the Cowboys as an unrestricted free agent in 2012, had one year left on his three-year, $10.5 million contract. His next step could be to join another team or retire.
"If the Cowboys did not cut Orton and he decided to retire, the 31-year-old backup quarterback would have had to surrender $3.4 million of his signing bonus.
"Orton was due to receive $3.25 million in base salary this year. While his departure frees up cap space from the base salary this season, Orton's release adds roughly $1.1 million of deade money to the 2014 cap and $2.2 million in 2015 for the prorated signing bonus, according to spotrac.com. Whether Orton remained with Dallas or not, the Cowboys would've still taken that $2.2 million in 2015 hit because of his contract's structure.
"Tony Romo's backup quarterback now becomes Brandon Weeden. The Cowboys signed Weeden, 30, in March to a two-year deal. The former first-round pick is scheduled to make $570,000 in 2014 and $660,000 in 2015."
For his part, ESPN Dallas' Todd Archer chimed in on the timing of Orton's release in his July 15 blog:
"Even though Kyle Orton skipped the offseason program, the Dallas Cowboys believed he would eventually show up for the June minicamp. When he failed to show up for the minicamp, Jason Garrett spoke optimistically that the backup quarterback would show up for training camp.
"On Tuesday, the Cowboys decided to release Orton.
"For all of the threats of coming after his signing bonus money if Orton retired, which could have been up to $3.4 million, or docking his base salary nearly $150,000 for skipping a physical, the minicamp and the workouts, the Cowboys decided having a player, especially a quarterback, not fully vested in the program was not worth it.
"My initial reaction is surprise. My second reaction is: why not do this sooner?
"Orton made it clear what his intentions were. He didn't want to play football anymore. But with training camp fast approaching and a daily fine of $30,000 staring him in the face, he was preparing to come to Oxnard, California, next week.
"The Cowboys will save $3.25 million in salary-cap space this year, which opens up more room for potential deals for Tyron Smith and/or Dez Bryant. Orton will count roughly $2.25 million against the cap next year, which he would have counted whether he played this year or not.
"If Orton had retired, he would have had to pay back the signing bonus money on the $5 million he received in 2012 and the $510,000 restructuring of his deal in 2013. He wasn't about to pay back that money and call it a career. He would have showed up for camp. Had he missed the first six days of camp, then the Cowboys could have come after parts of the $1.127 million signing bonus proration in 2014.
"Orton was hardly unprofessional in his two years. He served as a sounding board for Tony Romo and his other teammates as the backup. He played well in his one start last season, despite his fourth-quarter turnover. It was much better than people could have anticipated even though the Cowboys lost the NFC East title game to the Philadelphia Eagles."
The 31-year-old Orton has previously suited up for the Chicago Bears, Denver Broncos, Kansas City Chiefs and Cowboys. He has amassed 15,019 passing yards and 83 touchdowns and 59 interceptions in 75 career regular-season games, per ESPN stats.