Now that I have your attention with that Brandon WeedenÃ‚Â headline; let’s all step away from the torches and the pitchforks for a moment. While I am on record (see here) in thinking the signing of Brandon Weeden is a pragmatic step in the right direction for the Dallas Cowboys; I am not under some delusion (or medication) that he is the team’s Tony Romo of the future. I’m not even sure he is the Alex TanneyÃ‚Â (Cas’ pet cat) of the future, at this point. Weeden’s track record in the NFL, along with the Cowboys minimal investment in him mean it is very possible that he is not on the roster come Opening Day. The point is not about what Brandon Weeden; the player will do in Dallas. Ã‚Â It is what I believe Brandon Weeden; the signing, represents for the organization.
What I believe the Brandon Weeden signing represents, is a change in the philosophy of the Cowboys, at the most important positionÃ‚Â on an NFL field. Since Jason Garrett first became the primary offensive voice of the team in 2007; the Cowboys have focused their resources on high-end veteran backup quarterbacks. For the past two years they have moved even further in that direction, with their very significant investment in Kyle Orton as the lone back up to Tony Romo. I believe this to beÃ‚Â a huge mistake in how the team is allocating its limited salary cap resources at the position.
There are 32 starting quarterback jobs in the NFL and only about 12-15 quality starting quarterbacks in the league. That leaves 17-20 teams seeking an upgrade at the position, at any given time. All those teams can’t draft a quality starter, but they need a way to improve their signal caller. This leaves them looking at young developmental quarterbacks; from other teams, to find a way to sell hope to their fan-bases. This perfect storm has allowed teams with foresight to continually develop quarterbacks and cash in on them. Ã‚Â Teams will make trades or move on to them, from starters who are no longer performing at aÃ‚Â high level. The Green Bay Packers famously followed this strategy for years and were able to turn late round picks like Matt Hasselbeck and Aaron Brooks, into better picks from quarterback-needy teams. More recently; Matt Schaub (Falcons) and Kevin Kolb (Eagles) netted their original team much better compensation than they cost up front. For this discussion; it doesn’t matter thatÃ‚Â neither of them worked out long-term. I am looking at this from the original team’s perspective.
So what does all this have to do with Brandon Weeden’s signing? It signals to me that the Cowboys are starting to value the back up quarterback position; as an asset, to acquire other resources. Follow this scenario: Brandon Weeden comes in and works through OTA’s and mini-camps. He shows the talent that had him rated in the 1st or 2nd round by most teams two years ago. However; as unlikely you think this to be, how happy would Cowboys fans be to have Orton as an asset to trade? Giving them the potential to acquire a quality pick for the 2015 draft, from some desperate team. Also, possibly adding extra cap room to extend Dez Bryant and Tyron Smith. Even if Weeden totally tanks; his presence wouldn’t prevent the team from picking up another developmental quarterback, now that they have opened back up to the possibility.
A team that carried two kickers for multiple seasons simply cannot hide behind the excuse of “no roster space” for not keeping a developmental 3rd quarterback anymore. Tony Romo is 34, with a well-documented back situation that has required 2 surgeries in the past 12 months. At some point, the Cowboys need to look to groom a replacement for him. It doesn’t seem the team feels that time is now; but at least they are looking at carrying a 3rd quarterback, to develop. The best part about that change; if they doÃ‚Â successfully develop a QB, he can either wait to replace Romo or be traded. Ã‚Â This would put a better team around #9 for his last year or two with the team.