According to NFL.com, the Dallas Cowboys will finally move on from backup QB Kyle Orton and grant him his desire to be released. Orton’s situation was a strange one, which I had discussed a few weeks ago. He was paid as one of the top backup quarterbacks and Dallas was going to rely more on him this season with Tony Romo recovering from injury. When Orton informed the team of his desire to retire Dallas fought back and claimed they would force him to repay signing bonus money that they had paid him to honor a three year commitment to the team. Orton skipped all offseason activities to affirm his desire to not play this season.
Dallas may have come to the realization that it would be difficult to recover money from Orton if Orton did indeed never play again. A teams best course of recovery is to withhold payments due to a player, but Dallas’ only salary commitment to Orton would be a minuscule amount of performance based pay as well as any responsibilities they may have for severance pay. Orton’s contract is also complex due to voidable years and restructures of the contract, which may make any grievance process drag on for some time.
It should be noted that no transaction for the release of Orton has been made official. I would think that is because of the nature of the situation. Once the Cowboys release Orton, they relinquish their rights to recover bonus money and Orton would be free to sign with another team. In order to protect their rights they would need to move him to the retirement list or something like a “left squad” list. For Orton to protect his rights on the bonus recovery he would likely want his contract renegotiated to include a clause that would prohibit the Cowboys from recovering the bonus in the event of retirement. Basically this prevents either side from backing out on the deal in the near future.
Releasing Orton should save the Cowboys $3.25 million against their salary cap immediately, something they could not do following through with a long process throughout the summer of convincing him to come back. With some big extensions on the horizon, specifically for WR Dez Bryant, that money would be helpful towards an extension this July or August. Dallas will still need to account for $2.255 million in cap charges next season for Orton.
Jason is the founder of OTC and has been studying NFL contracts and the salary cap for over 15 years. Jason has co-authored two books about the NFL, Crunching Numbers and the Drafting Stage, which are widely circulated in the industry and hosts the OTC Podcast. Jason’s work has been featured in various publications including the Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, NFL Network and more. OTC is widely considered the leading authority on contract matters in the NFL.