Super Bowl LI is almost here, and that means that the NFL offseason is about to go into full swing. For the Dallas Cowboys, there are many questions to answer. But one looms over all: What will happen with quarterback Tony Romo?
There are four options, but only two that seem at all likely. He could remain with the Cowboys or retire, but neither of those have much chance of happening based on all that we are hearing from the team and from Romo himself. All indications are that he still wants to play as a starter and have as much of a chance to win as he can. And that means that he would either be traded or released outright.
For Romo, a release would give him the most flexibility and control over his situation, but that would not be best for the team. It is fairly obvious that they would like to get as much compensation for him as they could. There is some evidence that the team is prepared to work with Romo to help him find a good situation rather than ship him off to a team that would still struggle even with his help. Above all, he needs a team that has a decent offense to fit him into, with an offensive line that can reduce the danger of further injury.
But that is going to mean that Dallas would have to find a trade partner that fits those criteria. And Romo has two glaring issues, that injury history and the cost of paying him. He is going to demand a salary commensurate to his ability.
There has been a rash of articles and reports about teams that may be interested in him, as well as some claims that he has already identified some preferred landing spots. In the Friday news roundup here, Jason La Canfora was quoted listing some likely teams that could be in play.
Romo prefers to be moved to a contending team -- specifically, the Texans, Cardinals, Broncos or Chiefs. The Bills also have significant interest in Romo, team and league sources said, though they realize that it might be a tough sell. The Bills have not given up hope on retaining Tyrod Taylor on a lesser contract, too, though that might be wishful thinking on their part at this point.
That would seem to be an ideal situation, a group of teams that could create a bit of a bidding war, and that Romo would like to go to. The problem is we’re just not sure how accurate the reports are at this time. Mike Fisher reported the following:
News stories trumpeting Romo’s “desired destination’’ are not accurate, one source tells me, because he simply hasn’t taken the time to investigate the benefits and pitfalls of various NFL landing spots beyond Dallas. News stories suggesting his “priorities’’ are also wrong-headed, especially if the suggestions include a wish to “stick it to the Cowboys’’ by signing on with a team that has Dallas on its 2017.
“It simply hasn’t gotten that far yet,’’ says one person close to the situation who reminds that a Romo retirement — and the acceptance of a lucrative TV network job as an analyst — remains in play.
Confusing? Well, that is to be expected. And to be clear, La Canfora’s report suggested nothing about Romo wanting to stick it to the Cowboys. The various claims of teams that are really interested in Romo, and his having already established a list of acceptable alternatives, seem to be more fluid than solid fact. Meanwhile, it would also not be exactly surprising if there were some thoughts already for Romo and the Dallas front office about how they would like this to play out, but they have nothing to gain by tipping their hand so early. But the one thing that is certain is that there is a lot to still play out in this whole mess.
Here are the facts: Romo, when healthy, is that most valuable of all NFL commodities, a true franchise quarterback with proven skills and intelligence. There are never enough of those to go around in the league, which is to the advantage of both the player and his team. And Dallas has already made a clear commitment to Dak Prescott as the starter, no matter what evidence might be presented tot he contrary.
It just takes one. As in one team that sees Romo as a missing piece that would immediately improve things. If that one team is out there, then they have valid reason to want to get Romo in a trade rather than wait for him to hit the open market where things might be bid up. While the demand for him might not be so great early in the offseason, things could change drastically if he remained available as the season nears and some teams begin to realize they did not solve their quarterback issues through the draft or other free agent options.
And if there are two or more teams that covet Romo’s services, things really favor the Cowboys. Nothing would be better than to have multiple offers to weigh and perhaps entice a suitor to up their ante.
Factoring into all this is how teams so often overpay for name free agents. There is no position that brings more pressure to do so than quarterback. It comes from without as fan bases become restless, but more crucially that pressure can build within an organization. Outside of Dallas, GMs have to answer to the owners, and just because we don’t see the heat being put on, it still happens, far more than most realize.
While it is obvious that some of the conflicting reports are wrong, the fact that there are so many out there is evidence that reporters are hearing something about Romo and some of the teams being bandied about. Nothing may be solid yet, but things clearly seem to be going on. Chris Mortenson and Adam Schefter note that Romo is the biggest quarterback name that is likely to be available, but that there is a lot of other action coming outside of his story.
The quarterback carousel: There hasn't been a collection of such high-profile quarterbacks with their futures in question at once in any recent season. San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick will be opting out of his contract, according to a source, becoming a free agent. Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins -- already having played under one franchise tag -- is the most leveraged, powerful player in the league, with the ability to walk away from Washington after two more seasons if he so chooses. Bears quarterback Jay Cutler, once the prize of the 2009 offseason, could be a salary-cap casualty. Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor has a $15.5 million option bonus in his contract due March 11 that would guarantee him $30.75 million over the life of the contract. Patriots quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and Bengals quarterback AJ McCarron are both coveted around the league and are expected to draw interest. Even Johnny Manziel, claiming he now is sober, is interested in getting back in the game. Just as there are many quarterback questions, there are many teams that still need to answer them: Chicago, San Francisco, the New York Jets, Houston, Buffalo, Cleveland and Denver.
Even with the medical problems that have sidelined him for almost all of the past two seasons, Romo is still going to be the crown jewel of possible veteran quarterback acquisitions this year. There is talk already that he should be worth at least a second-round pick, and that may well go up. It may not work out that way, but the odds seem to be heavily in favor of Dallas having some good options for trading him.
However it turns out, the saga of Tony Romo in 2017 is going to be one we will all follow with great interest.