This was not how it was expected to be. When it became clear that the Dallas Cowboys had made the decision to stake their future on Dak Prescott, the widely-held assumption was that Tony Romo was going to be the hottest commodity for quarterback-hungry NFL teams. Despite his injury history, he is clearly still a supremely talented passer and field general in a league where there just aren’t enough of those to go around.
But instead of the expected maneuvering and bidding for his services, there has been an eerie stillness surrounding him. Statements of “do the right thing” and a possibly broken agreement to release him from Jerry Jones did not help matters much, apparently encouraging any teams that are interested in him to wait things out.
Yet, even with the league prohibitions against tampering, there are ways to feel things out. Agents know how to work back-channels and find out what may be possible. Likewise, teams can make discrete overtures. As the days drag on with no end in sight to the limbo Romo is in, there is cause to wonder just how much interest there really is in him. And if there is, does it come with a lowball offer for his services that he is willing to entertain? Given the battering his body has already taken, Romo has to be aware of the risks of going back into the fray. He has every reason to want to be given some good guarantees for taking those risks.
Likewise, the apparent lack of any offer to the Cowboys to trade him away has to be discouraging, even insulting. His history is statistically one of the best in the league. To a great degree, the failure to take his team further in the playoffs must be considered in light of the team around him, and the failure to provide more support. Jerry Jones has admitted that he and his staff have been sorely lacking in that.
None of that seems to matter. The two usual suspects to land him eventually, the Denver Broncos and Houston Texans, both have what seem to be very good situations to bring in a top quarterback talent to make a run in the next year or two. Both boast strong defenses, something Romo has mostly had to play without. They have other offensive weapons to utilize his skills. To those of us outside the game, it seems well worth the cost of a late-round draft pick to add him in either of those situations. And the Cowboys prize those kinds of picks.
Yet as far as anyone can tell, there has been absolutely nothing.
It is impossible to know what Romo is thinking, but most of us would probably start to feel a bit unwanted. Coming on top of getting supplanted as his own team’s starter, even though it was due to his own injury, that must be hard for Romo to swallow. He may be a true professional, but he is also a human being, and the need to be appreciated is a universal one. Right now, no one is really showing any appreciation for him.
Inside the game, that is. There is, of course, another community that is collectively drooling at the idea of getting Romo’s signature on a lucrative contract. That is the broadcast media. CBS has recently been brought up as one network that is very interested, but the interest in him as a future media figure has long been covered in the Dallas media. From the time that it was clear he would not be returning as the starter in Dallas, all the networks have reportedly shown interest, with claims that offers are already on the table for him to consider. Where none of the NFL teams are inclined to get into any kind of bidding for his services, there is every sign that multiple offers would be made for him to pick up a microphone, and he likely could create a decent auction for his services. It may not be for the kind of money he could command per year as a quarterback - but it could be for much, much longer than he could possibly play. And he would no longer have to worry if the next play on the field could be his last.
There is also his personal life to consider. While it is certainly a worst case scenario, he has to have at least some concern about a serious injury affecting his family life. All indications are that he is a devoted husband and father, and would hate to have his ability to enjoy those roles compromised by one more serious injury while chasing a ring that the odds are against him ever winning in any case. He has only a handful of years he could possibly play, and only one team makes it to the top each year.
Another team also means going to work away from his rather palatial home. If he chose the broadcast option, he would be able to spend more time in Dallas than he could if he was having to practice and play in another city. With his two boys, and a third child on the way, that may be a large factor in his decision.
There is an old saying, attributed to Bill Parcells, that once a football player starts thinking about retiring, he already is. Multiple reports indicate that Romo is clearly thinking about it. And with no real initiative being shown by any teams to acquire him, that may be easier and easier to consider. Had a team contacted the Cowboys about a possible trade earlier, that may have headed off such thoughts. But the time that is passing may be damping those competitive fires.
It is impossible to know exactly what game the other teams are playing. Perhaps they are just trying to bide their time to get a shot at Romo without having to spend any draft capital at all. But that may have been the wrong approach to take.
This all may be wrong, since this is largely speculative. Romo may still be too determined to make another try or two on the field. But talk about the offers from the networks is growing on social media, and there may be some fire behind that smoke.
If Romo does retire, he certainly has good reasons to do so. The lack of any real interest shown by possible suitors may be one. Perhaps it may be the one that finally decides him.