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A Simple, Mutually Beneficial Solution To The Cowboys’ Tony Romo Dilemma

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How the Cowboys and Tony Romo can part ways in a manner that is fair to all involved.

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Philadelphia Eagles Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

There are three perspectives that must be taken into account when considering the conundrum the Cowboys find themselves in with Tony Romo.

The clearest and most transparent is that of Romo, who has certainly played his last snap for the Dallas Cowboys. Any notions otherwise could be ruled out just by listening to him speak to the media after Dak Prescott was named the starter, and then again after the final regular season game of the year. The fire is still there, he still believes he can play at a high level, and he isn’t going to ride out the last few years of his career as a backup.

The second perspective comes from the several unknown teams around the league who undoubtedly would love to roll the dice on a quarterback of Romo’s caliber, despite his age and injuries. However, there is obviously significant risk that will deter teams from sinking too many resources into a quarterback who seems to barely last two games without getting injured at this point.

The third perspective, and seemingly the most convoluted, is that of the Cowboys organization. Over the last few years it seems that Jerry Jones’ role in organizational decision-making has been lessened, at least relative to what it was from 1994 up until about 2013 or so. Despite that, Stephen Jones and the rest of the organization are publicly deferring all Romo-related matters to Jerry and refuse to even discuss it aside from vague references to a meeting between Jerry and Romo at some point in the near future. This makes predicting the ultimate decision that much more unpredictable.

For the Cowboys there should be only one goal and that’s winning. I will always have a great appreciation and fondness for what Tony Romo has done for the team, but right now he is nothing more than an asset to be maximized in order to facilitate future winning. The goal should not just be to “do right by Romo”, it needs to be to do right by the organization and the team. If need be they should call his bluff if he were to threaten retirement if traded to a team not of his choosing and trade him to the highest bidder (not named Cleveland that is, even I couldn’t do that to Romo), but that isn’t a realistic scenario considering the emotional attachment that Jerry and the organization has to him.

So how do you satisfy the concerns of the three interested parties; Romo, his unknown future team, and the Cowboys?

It might be simpler than you think and all you have to do is take a look at the past, because after all, history has a way of repeating.

In August of 2008 a soon-to-be 39 year old Brett Favre was traded from the Packers to the Jets for a conditional fourth-round pick with the following conditions:

  • If Favre takes 50 percent of total snaps with the Jets in 2008, the fourth-rounder becomes a third-round pick
  • If he gets 70 percent of the snaps and the Jets make the playoffs, it becomes a second-round pick
  • If he gets 80 percent of snaps and the Jets make the Super Bowl, it becomes a first-round pick

The conditions don’t have to be exactly the same of course, but it provides a clear framework for a fair deal that should be able to satisfy all parties involved.

The Cowboys could allow Romo to work out something with a team that he truly wants to play for and in the process they would be “doing right by Romo”, in return the Cowboys receive fair compensation, and then of course Romo’s future team is protected in case of injury.

Given Romo’s injury history you could offer further reassurance to his future team by making the 2018 pick a conditional sixth- or seventh-rounder that only escalates to a third or fourth if he plays 50% of the snaps, a second-rounder if he plays 70% and they make the playoffs, etc. That way if Romo ends up suffering some sort of catastrophic injury after just a few games the team is only on the hook for a late-round pick.

This is a win-win-win for all sides and the interests of all three are protected. The risk is more or less evenly distributed between the Cowboys and Romo’s future team, and both parties are mutually rewarded based on a shared set of conditions.

Tony Romo would surely prefer to be released, that way he can have complete control over the situation, and also maximize the remaining assets for his future team so that they can build as strong a team around him as possible. However, for as much talk as there has been about “doing right by Romo”, he also must do right by the organization that stood by him and maintained an unwavering belief in him until what basically amounts to a miracle happened, forcing their hand to remove him as the starter.

Of course teams around the league would prefer to sign Romo for nothing, but it would be beneficial for a team to work out an arrangement with him ahead of time (he is apparently willing to restructure his contract to facilitate a trade) where they can make a trade and forego having to compete with several teams around the league for his signature if he were released.

Is it worth it to a team like Denver or Houston to trade a conditional pick that would only increase based on Romo’s playing time in order to position themselves for a potential Super Bowl run, while the downside is only losing a sixth-round pick in 2018?

The answer is obvious when you consider that the alternative means likely missing the playoffs, or in Houston’s case being non-competitive if they were to manage to win their weak division, unless they luck into playing another third-string quarterback of course.

The only scenario where a team could be 100% confident that they will get Romo as a free agent, and therefore be willing to play hardball and never offer anything of value in a trade, would be if he and his agent were back-channeling information to that particular team and expressed that all they have to do is wait the situation out. Of course this stance from Romo and/or his agent would require confidence on their part that the Cowboys (presumably Jerry) could be manipulated into granting his release, as opposed to simply trading him to another team.

I’d like to believe that this isn’t a possibility, and that Romo has as much loyalty and appreciation for Jerry and the organization as they do for him, but anything is possible.

Either way, there is no excuse for simply releasing Romo, especially when the cap savings are basically the same whether he is traded or released. Wanting to be fair to Tony is completely understandable, but the Cowboys must remember to be fair to themselves as well.