IRVING, Texas (AP)—The Dallas Cowboys took care of one of their top offseason priorities Saturday when they acquired quarterback Jon Kitna as the likely backup for Tony Romo.
Then they went out and signed linebacker Keith Brooking to a three-year deal worth about $6 million—with about $2.5 million guaranteed—to provide a veteran defender familiar with coach Wade Philips at a position the Cowboys expect to lose at least one free agent.
The Cowboys got Kitna from Detroit for starting cornerback Anthony Henry. Kitna appeared in only four games last season for the Lions, starting in all of those before being put on injured reserve in mid-October because of a back injury.
The day before the Lions put Kitna on injured reserve, he said his injury wasn’t that serious and that he expected to play again during the season. He threw for 758 yards with five touchdowns and five interceptions.
The 36-year-old Kitna, who was due a $1 million roster bonus next week, was not expected to return to the Lions. Kitna, scheduled to make $1.95 million this season has played 12 NFL seasons with Seattle (1997-2000), Cincinnati (2001-05) and Detroit (2006-08).
When Romo missed three games last season because of a broken pinkie, the Cowboys went 1-2 and leaned heavily on their defense to beat Tampa Bay 13-9 for the lone victory. The Cowboys, who went into the season considered a Super Bowl favorite, instead went 9-7 and missed the playoffs.
Dallas released 17-year veteran quarterback Brad Johnson on Thursday.
Brooking played all 11 of his NFL seasons with the Falcons and was the last remaining player from their Super Bowl team a decade ago.
Brooking, a five-time Pro Bowl selection and Atlanta’s leading tackler each of the last eight seasons, became a free agent after failing to work out a new contract with the Falcons. He was the team’s first-round pick in 1998, and helped the team reach the Super Bowl as a rookie.
“Keith defined the Falcons in so many ways: his tenure, his leadership on and off the field, his commitment to excellence and his many resulting accomplishments, his love for Atlanta, and so much more,” Falcons owner Arthur Blank said in a statement. “He will always be a Falcon in the hearts of his teammates and our fans.”
Brooking has spent his entire football career in the Atlanta area. He grew up in the southern suburbs and played his college ball at Georgia Tech before being drafted by the Falcons. He became a starter in 1999, and started 128 consecutive games since 2001.
Phillips, the third-year Cowboys coach who will be his own defensive coordinator this season, was Atlanta’s defensive coordinator from 2002-03.
Cowboys linebackers Zach Thomas and Kevin Burnett are free agents, so getting Brooking was a key move.
Henry started all 16 games for Dallas last season. Orlando Scandrick or Mike Jenkins, both rookies last season, could be in position to take over the starting job.
Kitna could have an interesting introduction to a couple of Dallas defenders.
In the 2006 regular-season finale, Kitna threw four touchdowns passes in a 39-31 victory that wrapped up a 3-13 season for the Lions. In an interview the following week with a radio station in Seattle, where the Cowboys had to go for the playoffs, Kitna called out the Dallas defense, notably cornerback Terence Newman and linebacker Bradie James.
Before the 2007 game Dallas won, the NFL put Newman on notice after he indicated during a radio interview his desire for revenge on Kitna. That came about the same time James said the game had been circled on his calendar all year.
“Y’all can ask me about Jon Kitna every day from here on out the rest of my life and I will get fired up,” James said then. “He talked like we weren’t ever going to play them again.”