In a stunning development, the Kings traded DeMarcus Cousins to the New Orleans—wait, wrong sport. The truth is, not much is happening on the football front right now. The Combine is still a week away with free agency to follow shortly after. Which is why most of us have been camping out in Speculation City. Come on in, the water’s fine!
Maybe there’s more to life than solving the mystery of where Tony Romo will play next season. But there are plenty of other websites you can go to for that. You came here for the good stuff.
While a decision on Romo isn’t imminent, it’s not far off either. Romo is expected to meet with Cowboys owner/GM Jerry Jones before or during the Combine, which begins on February 28. With Rookie of the Year Dak Prescott entrenched as the starting quarterback, the Cowboys are left with three options: 1) pay Romo $14 million to hold Prescott’s clipboard for another year, 2) trade him, possibly to a team of his choosing or 3) release Romo and let him test the open market. We can safely dismiss the first option and focus on the latter two.
Given some of the bottom barrel quarterbacks in circulation right now (Bryce Petty is currently atop the Jets’ QB depth chart), it seems ludicrous to think the Cowboys couldn’t get at least SOMETHING for Romo in a trade. Sure there’s risk: Romo turns 37 in April and has played all of five games over the last two seasons. Romo’s back is flimsier than some of Jeff Fisher’s excuses. But if Romo can actually stay healthy for once, he could be one of the league’s top signal callers.
Yet multiple reports suggest Romo is more likely to be released than traded. If that's the case, why would the Cowboys let Romo escape Dallas without asking for anything in return? I think there are two schools of thought here. The first is purely financial. Even after freeing up $17.3 million in cap room Monday by restructuring the contracts of offensive linemen Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick, the Cowboys will have less than $5 million in spending money this offseason. Compare that to the 49ers, Browns, Buccaneers, Jaguars, Patriots and Titans, who each have more than $60 million at their disposal.
The Cowboys will still be on the hook for $19.6 million if they release Romo, but that cap hit could be reduced to $10.7 million this year if they designate Romo as a post-June 1 cut. That would hurt Dallas next season—the $19.6 million would be spread out over two years in this scenario—but for a team in win-now mode, that cap space might be more valuable this season than it would be in 2018.
The other school of thought, and it’s one that’s shared by Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer as well as a number of Cowboys staffers, is that Jerry Jones wants to “do right” by Romo. Think of it as a lifetime achievement award. Giving Romo the courtesy of choosing his next team is probably the least Jones can do after all Romo has done for the organization. That can still be accomplished through a trade, but letting Romo explore the market for himself would be a nice peace offering by Dallas after giving his job away last season.
Whether it’s through a trade or by releasing him, it’s safe to say Romo has played his last down in Dallas. So where’s the Romo van headed? Romo has already pinpointed a few of his preferred landing spots. Among them are Arizona, Denver, Kansas City and Houston. Romo is certain to attract interest from other quarterback-needy teams like the Bills and Jets but nothing short of a miracle would draw him to either of those unlikely situations. With Romo entering the twilight of his career, it’s Super Bowl or bust for the 14-year veteran.
With Carson Palmer coming back for another season and Romo unlikely to accept a backup job, we can probably rule out the Cardinals. Kansas City, led by dink-and-dunk master Alex Smith, would also fall into the long shot category. That leaves Denver and Houston as the best fits.
The Broncos’ run defense took a step back last season, but Denver’s “No Fly Zone” secondary was as dominant as ever. So was Von Miller, who finished second to Oakland’s Khalil Mack in Defensive Player of the Year Voting. In other words, if the Broncos’ offense can get its act together, Denver should be a near lock for the postseason.
Denver’s offense stagnated during a down 2016 campaign, but it shouldn’t be hard to pick up the pieces. In Denver, Romo would inherit a pair of perennial 1,000-yard receivers in Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. The running game should be on the up-and-up as well, assuming C.J. Anderson is healthy after a knee injury sidelined him for nine games last season. The Broncos are still hoping that first-round pick Paxton Lynch develops into a franchise quarterback, but while they wait for that transformation, a year or two of Romo wouldn’t be the worst thing. Aside from those brutal Denver winters, the Broncos check off all the boxes.
The Broncos present a strong case but Houston may be even more appealing to Romo. For one, Houston isn’t that far a drive from Dallas (about four hours, give or take). For that reason, joining a team in Houston would obviously be more convenient for Romo than moving to a new state and uprooting his family.
But more importantly, the Texans are built to win right now. Of the three teams New England faced on its path to Super Bowl LI, nobody gave Tom Brady a harder time than the Texans. And that was without the help of their best pass rusher, three-time Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt.
The Texans are a quarterback away from making noise in the AFC and Romo could be the missing link. Houston still owes Brock Osweiler a boatload of money but that doesn’t guarantee that he’ll be the Week 1 starter. Osweiler was benched for Tom Savage at one point last year and will enter next season on an extremely short leash. DeAndre Hopkins’ production tailed off in 2016, but he was magnificent a year earlier with Brian Hoyer leading the Texans’ round robin at quarterback. Swap Osweiler for Romo and Hopkins could be looking at a bounce-back year for the ages. It almost makes too much sense.
Romo believes he has 2-3 good years left in him, and though that may seem ambitious, the recent play of veteran quarterbacks around the league should give Romo reason for optimism. 38-year-old Drew Brees led the NFL in passing yards last season while Tom Brady just led the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history at the age of 39. Eli Manning (36), Carson Palmer (37) and Philip Rivers (35) are also coming off productive years. And let’s not forget that Romo was a second-team All-Pro the last time he was healthy for a full season. The NFL offseason always promises plenty of enticing plotlines, but this year’s Romo saga has to be one of the juiciest in recent memory.
Quick Hits: Monday was a busy day for the Jaguars. The team released Jared Odrick (who didn’t seem that bummed out about it) and made a pair of trades, both with Miami. The Dolphins acquired Julius Thomas from Jacksonville in exchange for a seventh-round pick in 2017 while the Jags landed Branden Albert for a seventh-rounder in 2018. In Miami, Thomas will be reunited with his former offensive coordinator Adam Gase … Earl Mitchell has meetings set up with the Seahawks, 49ers, Broncos and Falcons this week. The seven-year veteran was let go by the Dolphins last week … Cameron Wake agreed to a two-year, $19 million extension with Miami over the weekend. Wake is now under contract through his age-37 season … According to Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio, impending free agent Kirk Cousins will not sign a long-term deal with the Redskins before March 1. It looks like he’ll be franchise-tagged for the second year in a row … Victor Cruz, the subject of last week’s Bump and Run, met with the Panthers last weekend. Cruz said his visit went well, though he left without a contract … ESPN’s Jordan Raanan believes the Giants could opt to franchise-tag Jason Pierre-Paul before the March 1 deadline. The franchise tag number for defensive ends is $17.05 million … Impending free agent Jacob Tamme said he loves playing in Atlanta but could be tempted to join his former offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan in San Francisco. The Niners recently signed tight end Vance McDonald to a five-year extension but they could use Tamme’s help in implementing Shanahan’s offense … Speaking of Shanahan, the 49ers’ new coach said he isn’t looking for a short-term fix at quarterback. There have been rumblings that veteran Matt Schaub could follow Shanahan to San Francisco and serve as a bridge to a future franchise quarterback, but Shanahan’s comments suggest that’s unlikely … The Browns are not expected to franchise-tag Terrelle Pryor. The 27-year-old was electric in his first full season as a wide receiver, leading the Browns with 77 catches and over 1,000 receiving yards … Mark Daniels of the Providence Journal expects New England to “make a run” at Martellus Bennett this offseason. Bennett won’t come cheap as the top tight end on the market, but the Patriots could use some depth behind Rob Gronkowski, who is coming off his third back surgery … Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com believes Giovani Bernard will avoid the PUP list next season and at worst would miss one or two games to start the year. It’s been three months since Bernard tore his ACL … There have been conflicting reports surrounding free-agent-to-be Andrew Whitworth. Paul Dehner of the Cincinnati Enquirer reported Monday that Whitworth was expected to re-sign with the Bengals but now Alex Marvez of the Sporting News is hearing that Whitworth will hit the open market. The three-time Pro Bowler has spent his entire 11-year career in Cincinnati … Cardinals GM Steve Keim said the team has had a “great dialogue” with impending free agent Chandler Jones. The former Patriot finished second on the team with 11 sacks in 2016 … Darrelle Revis is facing felony charges for aggravated assault, conspiracy, robbery and a misdemeanor for making terroristic threats stemming from a brawl in Pittsburgh earlier this month. If Revis is suspended or fined for conduct detrimental to the team or for violating the league’s conduct policy, the Jets could void the remainder of his contract including the $6 million he’s guaranteed for next season.