A couple of days ago, when the word came down that Tony Romo was going to be released, I was appalled. How could Dallas let go of their biggest asset for nothing? Just days before I penned an article saying that the Cowboys would be fools if they released Romo.
Then yesterday, on the eve of free agency opening the Cowboys pulled back and didn’t release Romo. With the trade of Brock Osweiler to the Browns freeing up vital cap space for Houston to take on Tony Romo’s contract, and with a rumor that Denver might trade Trevor Semien to the Jets, are they just trying to gin up some interest in a Romo trade, or is the team serious about holding out until they get something of value for Romo?
Who knows at this point?
If we step back for a moment, and look at the landscape of quarterbacks in the NFL, there is more than Houston and Denver who could be in play for Tony Romo’s services.
Consider the following teams we wrote about earlier as possible Romo destinations, and then came back to in this article, where we looked at their quarterback from last season and his quarterback rating. How many of them are still in play?
Houston Texans - Brock Osweiler - 72.2 (29th)
Buffalo Bills - Tyrod Taylor - 89.7 (18th)
Denver Broncos - Trevor Semien - 84.6 (23rd)
Jacksonville Jaguars - Blake Bortles - 78.8 (26th)
Miami Dolphins - Ryan Tannehill - 93.5 (12th)
Kansas City Chiefs - Alex Smith - 91.2 (16th)
New York Jets - Ryan Fitzpatrick - 69.6 (30th)
The only one off this list at this point is Buffalo, which re-upped with Tyrod Taylor. In the first article, we also mentioned the Chicago Bears, who have cast their lot with Mike Glennon, while San Francisco has given Brian Hoyer a two-year deal that suggests they would also be off the table. Carson Palmer is also returning to the Cardinals, so that’s a no-go.
Since we wrote that, there’s another team that could be on the radar - Washington. The latest out of DC, after Scott McCloughlan was fired, is that Kirk Cousins wants out, and hasn’t signed his newest franchise tag tender, despite it’s $24 million value. If Washington realizes it will never sign Cousins to a long-term deal, now would be the time to trade him, after which they could covet Tony Romo’s services as a bridge to their next quarterback. Tom Ryle debunked this very idea just a few days ago, but it’s no longer as far-fetched as it seemed then.
That means there are still potentially seven teams who might be looking for some help at the quarterback position. Admittedly, Kansas City and Miami can reasonably stick with the quarterbacks they have. But everyone else - Houston, Denver, Jacksonville, and New York, has no real shot of competing for NFL glory with the quarterbacks they currently have. And Washington would have no chance if it moved on from Cousins. Yet at least three or four of the five would be playoff contenders with a healthy Tony Romo at the helm.
Accordingly, as long as there is even one of these teams left in need of a quarterback, there is no reason for Dallas to cut ties with Romo for free. That’s not even counting the possibility of injury, which forced Minnesota’s hand last year in trading for Sam Bradford. Teams can say they aren’t trading for Romo all they want, but that isn’t going to fix their gaping quarterback problem.
Charley Casserly on the NFL Network said Dallas’s deadline for dealing Romo is when he enters the offseason weight program, or perhaps OTAs, because at that point he would face some risk of injury. But that’s a false deadline, as Dallas can simply hold Romo out of these programs. Dallas should have no concern about getting Romo in shape for teams waiting for his release. If they want him to get into their programs, then they should pay up.
And Romo himself has already said goodbye to Dallas fans, so what further allegiance should the team have for his welfare?
This may seem very cold. But for a team that’s gone more than 20 years since a Super Bowl appearance, or even a shot at one in an NFC Championship game, Dallas needs to call everyone’s bluff and get fair market value for its one tradeable asset.
If the season arrives and no one has been willing to pony up for Tony Romo, Dallas will have to release him to regain the cap space trading or cutting him provides. By then, his value will have declined for other teams, as he will have had no OTAs, no workouts, no time to learn the playbook, no pre-season, no team meetings, nothing. But that will also be to Dallas’ benefit, because any team Romo goes to will be Dallas’ adversary. (Indeed, Dallas plays Denver and Kansas City this year, and Washington twice.)
Do you think Bill Belichick and New England would play this any differently if they had this opportunity? Back in the day, they held on to Drew Bledsoe until April 22nd, when they traded him to the Bills.
There is no room for sentimentality here. The Cowboys need to do right by the players who are staying in Dallas by building a stronger team around them. Getting something for Romo is a means to that end.