So how did we all get snookered? Twenty-four hours before the start of NFL free agency, it was accepted as fact that the Dallas Cowboys would release Tony Romo at the beginning of the league year, when free agency began. This would allow Romo to find the best spot to try and win with another team.
And then it didn’t happen. Instead, new reports came out that the Cowboys were looking for a trade - which was what many thought they should be doing all along.
Drilling down a little into the reports of the imminent release of Romo, they all seemed to spring from two tweets on the subject.
Hearing there is a very strong likelihood that barring a strong trade offer the Cowboys release Tony Romo tomorrow. Let the chase begin— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) March 8, 2017
Source has confirmed, Tony Romo will be released by the Cowboys tomorrow— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) March 8, 2017
There may have been other things I have not uncovered with an admittedly inexpert search, but that seems to be the two reeds the whole “Romo to be released” story hung from. In hindsight, there were some rather obvious holes.
First off, there was no statement from Jerry or Stephen Jones that really affirmed this. As a matter of fact, what they said on the record actually contradicted this. For instance:
Jerry Jones on Saturday: Tony Romo and I have "high tolerance for ambiguity." We don't have to make a move "for really quite a while here."— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) March 9, 2017
That is part of the problem we all seem to have. Jerry Jones talks a lot, and that makes it hard to separate the wheat and the chaff. But that remark has some implications that were really overlooked in the flurry of reports and articles about the supposed Romo release.
Further, it seems that Jones was saying that he and Romo were on the same page about letting things play out, at least for a while. And that further implies that the whole approach may involve more cooperation between the two sides than we think. There was a line of thought that not releasing Romo would betray the “do right” idea for him, but if he is actually fully aware of what the team is doing and working with them, then that is just wrong. This may well be a coordinated approach to try and get the best outcome for both the player and the team.
And if no trade does eventuate, then Romo can still be released. Nothing is really lost in that case. As Jones observed, there is no real rush.
That is really a key tenet of the Cowboys approach to the offseason. They do not force things, but let the market flow to them. They have done that in free agency for years now, and it seems a perfectly valid way to handle the departure of Romo.
When the reports surfaced about the supposed release, there was no word from the Star to clarify things - but that makes perfect sense. This was a situation where there was no reason to tip the team’s hand. That uncertainty could work to their advantage. It certainly made things very interesting as the word about a possible trade emerged in the hours before the start of free agency.
We have become very used to how Jerry Jones speaks at length about, well, nearly everything. But as things got down to the wire, he went quiet, and that frankly threw us off. It may have been deliberate gamesmanship, or just serendipity, but it is hard to argue that it was misplayed.
Now, there is a waiting game in progress. Both the Denver Broncos and the Houston Texans have stated they are interested in Romo AFTER he is released. And with the surprise trade of Brock Osweiler to the Cleveland Browns, both Denver and Houston have the cap space to pursue Romo. But since the Cowboys have stood pat, they now have to be wondering just who would win in attempting to bring Romo on board. And we have no way of knowing if another team might suddenly get into the mix. Dallas seems to be waiting to see if someone will blink and make an offer to try and take control of things. If that happens, then they can try to get a better offer from the other interested party.
That may happen, giving the Cowboys some return for Romo (even if it is small). If not, then the team has lost nothing, really. It just will proceed with the release, most likely as a post-June 1st one to put them in the best long-term cap situation.
The more you look at what happened, the more it appears that we all were fooled by a couple of reports. They may have even been a deliberate bit of misinformation. We don’t know, but obviously some sources misled the media. And we were all perhaps too willing to accept this without question in our desire to get the story out there.
Then again, this game has been played by NFL teams for a long time. All we can do is try to remember to take almost everything with a grain of salt, especially until we get a clear statement from people who count.
That is easier said than done, especially in a world where being first trumps being accurate so much of the time.