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Cowboys Free Agent Primer: Who'll Be Tony Romo's Backup?

Two weeks ago, Jon Kitna informed the Dallas Cowboys that he was going to retire. Kitna had been suffering from lingering back issues and had been inactive since week 11.

In a sign that the Cowboys may not be entirely comfortable with Stephen McGee as their No. 2 quarterback, the Cowboys waited until week 15 to put Kitna on IR. Additionally, they put in a waiver claim for Kyle Orton immediately after the week 11 game. ESPNDallas reported at the time that the Cowboys were willing to pay Orton roughly $2.6 million to be the backup for the final six games.

It's probably a fair assumption that the Cowboys will once again be looking for a veteran quarterback this offseason as the number two guy to back up Tony Romo next year.

The Cowboys could easily end up going after Kyle Orton again. Orton will probably not get a starting job in the league at this point, yet as measured by his 2011 passer rating, he's still within the top 25 QBs in the league. But there are other options available as well, and after the break we'll take a brief look at a number of veteran quarterbacks who are unrestricted free agents.

The table below shows the 2012 UFA quarterbacks, one of whom the Cowboys may be considering for 2012. The list excludes Drew Brees, Alex Smith and Matt Flynn because, quite simply, this is not Madden. The list also excludes Donovan McNabb for too many reasons to list here.

Name Team Age Career Record Career Rating Name Team Age Career Record Career Rating
Former Starters Career Backups
David Garrard - -
33 39-37 85.8 Shaun Hill DET 31 13-13 84.7
Jason Campbell OAK 30 31-39 82.8 Sage Rosenfels MIA 33 6-6 81.2
Byron Leftwich PIT 31 24-25 79.7 Chris Redman ATL 34 4-8 78.6
Kyle Orton KC 29 35-34 79.4 Kevin O'Connell NYJ 26 0-0 73.6
Charlie Batch PIT 37 24-29 77.8 Dennis Dixon PIT 26 2-1 71.4
Chad Henne MIA 26 13-18 75.7 A.J. Feeley STL 34 8-10 69.1
David Carr NYG 32 23-56 74.9 Luke McCown JAC 30 2-7 68.5
Vince Young PHI 28 31-19 74.4 Brady Quinn DEN 27 3-9 66.8
Rex Grossman WAS 31 25-22 71.4 Charlie Whitehurst SEA 29 1-3 64.6
Kyle Boller OAK 30 20-27 69.5 Drew Stanton DET 27 2-2 63.1
Derek Anderson CAR 28 18-25 68.8 Josh Johnson TB 25 0-5 57.7

If the Cowboys decide to go after a veteran quarterback, this is the very shallow pool from which they'll have to make their pick. If you were the GM tasked with finding a backup QB with NFL experience for the next two years, which one of these candidates would you sign?

As you evaluate the list, keep in mind that the Cowboys current 'career backup', 26 year-old Stephen McGee, is 1-0 as a starter with a 82.4 rating in three NFL games played, and that when the Cowboys signed 'former starter' Jon Kitna, he was 36, had a 46-69 record and a 76.6 career passer rating.

In the meantime, Kitna has taken up a part-time teaching position at his Alma Mater high school, where he's also the sole applicant for the vacant football coaching position. Figuring out who'll get that job is a little easier than figuring out who'll get the vacant Cowboys' backup job.

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