Tony Romo is far and away the best QB talent to hit free agency since Peyton Manning. That's not even debatable. And the idea of letting him simply walk out of Dallas without some compensation is preposterous.
"I’d try not to release [Tony Romo]," said former Cowboys head coach Bill Parcells when ask about how he’d handle the current Romo situation in Dallas during a recent interview on ESPNLA 710 AM.
"He does represent value. And getting something is always better than getting nothing. Now, I’m sure Jerry Jones owes a debt of gratitude to Tony and that’s all well and good. But he represents an asset to the organization. I would just not give that away for nothing."
A lot of the discussion about Romo has revolved around his value, and a recent report from Jason La Canfora of CBSSports suggested the Cowboys will be able to get a conditional third-round pick for Romo that could turn into a second depending playing time.
Consensus among a few personnel guys I trust is that the Cowboys can get at least a third-round pick for Tony Romo, and possibly one that moves to a second-round pick based on Romo's playing time and ability to stay healthy.
In the NFL. there is an odd seasonality in the value of draft picks. While teams hem and haw at the idea of giving up any kind of pick prior to the draft, they have no issues giving up picks during the offseason or at the start of the season to fill some roster holes with questionable talent.
In 2015 for example, the Cowboys had no issues trading for WR Brice Butler (swapping a 5th for Oakland's 6th) or Matt Cassel (again swapping a 5th for Buffalo's 7th). And today there are scattered reports that Romo isn't worth much more than a 5th-round pick? Give me a break.
With the understanding that draft picks are at a premium shortly before the draft, one way to make a trade for Romo more palatable to the acquiring team is by offering to swap picks instead of asking the acquiring team to give up picks. That way the acquiring team doesn't lose any picks and still gets a QB, even if it means moving down in the draft a little.
The oddsmakers currently have four teams in the running for Romo's services, the Denver Broncos (+300), Chicago Bears (+400), San Francisco 49ers (+600), and Houston Texans (+800). Here's what a swap of picks with each team could look like, as well as the value Romo would have in each trade:
Dallas/Denver: Dallas trades the 28th pick (660 trade points) + Tony Romo to Denver for their 20th pick (850 points). The 190 points difference in trade points would give Romo the equivalent value of the 80th overall pick, a mid 3rd-rounder. That appears reasonable, though the Cowboys might ask for a conditional pick in 2018 based on playing time to make deal a bit sweeter.
Dallas/Houston: Because the Texans are picking just three spots ahead of the Cowboys a straight up swap of the Cowboys' 28th for the Texans' 25th (720 points) would value Romo at just 60 points, the equivalent of a low 4th-rounder. That's not very attractive.
A better deal would be for Dallas to trade their 1st and 3rd (762 points) to Houston for their 1st and 2nd (1050 points), which would value Romo at 288 points, the equivalent of the 62nd pick at the very bottom of the 2nd round.
Dallas/Chicago: The Bears are not going to swap their 3rd overall pick for the Cowboys' 28th pick, but they might be amenable to swapping 2nd-round picks.
Dallas swaps their 2nd rounder (#60, 300 points) to Chicago for their 2nd rounder (#36, 540 points), which would value Romo at 240 points, the equivalent of the 70th pick in the upper half of the 3rd round.
Dallas/49ers: Like the Bears, the 49ers are not going to give up their No. 2 overall pick, but swapping 2nd rounders might work for them as well.
Cowboys' 2nd (#60, 300 points) for 49ers' 2nd (#34, 560 points). Romo value: 260 points = 66th pick at the top of the third.
Here's a summary of the swaps in table form:
|Trade Partners||Dallas offers||Dallas gets||Equivalent Romo value|
|Denver||1st||1st||Mid-3rd (80th overall pick, 190 points)|
|Houston||1st & 3rd||1st & 2nd||Bottom-2nd (62nd overall pick, 288 points)|
|Chicago||2nd||2nd||Top-3rd (70th pick, 240 points)|
|San Francisco||2nd||2nd||Top-3rd (66th pick, 260 points)|
All four trade scenarios give Tony Romo a value somewhere between the bottom of the second and middle of the third round, which is what the personnel people La Canfora talked to above figure to be Romo's value. Whether that's an accurate assessment remains to be seen of course.
But the principle of swapping picks can be made to work with whatever value teams assign to Tony Romo. Because instead of "giving up picks for a 37-year old quarterback", the acquiring team is merely "swapping picks for a QB that can make them an instant contender".
And for the acquiring team, that is a much easier story to sell to their owner, their fans, and the media.