The Tony Romo clock is running out. With offseason workouts set to begin in only a few weeks – and the Dallas Cowboys unlikely to risk having their ousted former starter show up and expose himself to injury – the moment to make a decision on Romo has arrived for Dallas.
If the Cowboys are going to trade him, next week’s league spring meetings mark the last best chance for Dallas to pry something loose from another NFL team in exchange for the 14-year veteran. And it just so happens that team CEO Stephen Jones will be face-to-face with some vital individuals when the meetings kick off in Phoenix. Most notably, Jones will be spending some time with Houston Texans general manager Rick Smith and Denver Broncos general manager John Elway – who are both members of the league’s competition committee alongside Jones.
<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="If something – anything – is there to be had in exchange for Romo, next week’s target-rich trade environment will set the stage for a deal. But it’s looking less likely than ever that Dallas will be able to strike a deal on the trade market.” data-reactid=”11″>If something – anything – is there to be had in exchange for Romo, next week’s target-rich trade environment will set the stage for a deal. But it’s looking less likely than ever that Dallas will be able to strike a deal on the trade market.
Two league sources told Yahoo Sports that Denver and Houston have essentially shut down the notion of trading for Romo since the start of free agency, largely on the belief that the Cowboys have little remaining leverage and will be forced to release the quarterback before the team’s offseason program begins in mid-April. If Romo intends to play, and there is no suggestion that he doesn’t, keeping him into the beginning of the offseason program could set up an awkward scenario in which the Cowboys ask him to refrain from attending workouts. In effect, that would be the only way to mitigate the risk of Romo injuring himself during organized team activities and possibly putting Dallas on the hook for next season’s full $24.7 million salary-cap hit.
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That scenario seems wildly unlikely at this stage considering Romo hasn’t given the team any indication that he’s ready to retire. What’s most likely in play now is that Dallas has held on to Romo in hopes that some suitor – Denver, Houston or some unknown – would get anxious waiting through the expanse of free agency and offer some draft capital or even to flip-flop-picks in one of the top rounds. But that hasn’t happened, either because the Texans and Broncos have been inclined to call the Cowboys’ bluff or because the market for Romo’s services is too uncertain with his age (he turns 37 in April) and the reality that teams have seen almost zero film on him since last season’s back injury.
<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="That’s not to suggest that Dallas was unwise to take a patient stand over the past few weeks to see if anything shook loose. Once the Cowboys breached the early portion of free agency with Romo on the roster, there was no pressure to move on from Romo quickly, largely because Romo hasn’t made his desire to move on a public issue. Aside from an awkward goodbye to Dallas fans on social media, Romo hasn’t pressed the issue of his release. The salary cap hasn’t been an issue, either. Partially because the team already made enough space to hang onto Romo for this very reason, and partially because the team hasn’t been inclined to retain some of its own free agents or chase others on the open market.” data-reactid=”33″>That’s not to suggest that Dallas was unwise to take a patient stand over the past few weeks to see if anything shook loose. Once the Cowboys breached the early portion of free agency with Romo on the roster, there was no pressure to move on from Romo quickly, largely because Romo hasn’t made his desire to move on a public issue.
Because of all of that, Dallas had essentially zero incentive to quickly release Romo. Particularly when the team desired a retirement over almost any other scenario that resulted with Romo playing for another NFL team. A Cowboys source insisted to Yahoo Sports there hasn’t been any internal war or even so much as an uncomfortable conversation between the franchise and the quarterback. Instead, both sides have opted for patience, knowing that there was a built-in expiration date on the relationship.
With that in mind, the best play for Dallas has been to stand pat and hope for one of two things: That Romo would choose to hang up his cleats; or that a trade partner would panic and make an offer. Neither has happened, and now Dallas is staring at the possibility of having Romo report to the team’s offseason workouts next month. And that is where this all is slated to come to a conclusion.
Arguably the only loss in all of this was quarterback Josh McCown, who was orbiting the Cowboys for about a week, waiting to sign up for the backup quarterback spot. That gave the New York Jets a chance to put a better offer on the table for McCown – not to mention the chance to start for a season as a bridge quarterback. When it became apparent McCown had a one-season, $6 million payday with the Jets on the table, Dallas retained Kellen Moore for a far cheaper one-year deal.
So now Cowboys representatives head to Phoenix on Sunday for the spring meetings knowing this is the last chance to get something done. Hoping for some kind of sudden motivation from a trade partner – maybe hoping the Broncos would like to get Romo into their offseason program, which is slated to open in early April.
Given that the Broncos have waited this long, it’s unlikely they’ll be compelled to make a deal now. And the landscape looks just as bleak for the Texans and arguably every other NFL suitor. Other teams know the time for Dallas to make a move has arrived. At the very least, that will push any trade scenario to the cheapest level yet. The best-case scenario might be getting anything in exchange, even a late-round pick.
Everyone knows this is coming to an end. Stephen Jones and the Cowboys have one last pass with potential suitors. Whether they’re interested or not, the clock on Romo’s stay in Dallas has little time remaining.