Nearly two weeks have passed since the Dallas Cowboys appeared set to release veteran Tony Romo, their former franchise quarterback who lost his starting job last season. Romo remains on the Cowboys’ roster, even after posting a farewell video on social media, and the free-agent market has slowed considerably.
What’s happening here? Let’s update the situation as best we can, as of Wednesday.
Why haven’t the Cowboys released Romo already, as multiple reports initially suggested they would?
Put simply, they don’t need to.
The Cowboys have enough salary-cap space, about $3 million at last check, and there aren’t many high-priced options remaining on the market whom they would need to create room for. Their original plan to designate Romo a post-June 1 cut means they had already accepted that his $24.7 million cap number would remain on their books until then. They weren’t going to get any immediate cap relief.
So, has Dallas changed its mind?
There is no indication of that. Cowboys general manager and owner Jerry Jones would no doubt prefer Romo as a backup to Dak Prescott, rather than Kellen Moore or some other lesser player. But that appears to be unrealistic, both financially — Romo’s contract calls for him to earn $14 million in 2017 — and from a chemistry standpoint. If Romo is going to be on an NFL roster, he wants to play.
What’s the point of Dallas holding on to him?
It’s presumed that there are two leading contenders for Romo’s services: The Houston Texans and Denver Broncos, probably in that order. Perhaps one of them will get antsy and offer a draft pick to secure him now. Other than Jay Cutler, there isn’t a quarterback on the free-agent market who would project as a likely starter. And if either of those teams preferred Cutler, they probably would have signed him by now.
What’s the downside to the Cowboys’ approach here?
None, as long as Romo is fine with it. To this point, there is no indication he is getting impatient or that he would create a public spectacle to force the Cowboys’ hands.
Really? No repercussions at all?
Well, one tangential issue arose this week when veteran Josh McCown signed with the Jets. McCown previously visited the Cowboys but held off on signing because Romo’s situation was unsettled. So you could argue that this approach cost the Cowboys having McCown as Prescott’s backup.
Are you sure Romo wants to play in 2017?
Not entirely, no. The informed guess is that Romo wants to play for a contender at what he considers a fair starting-level salary, but he isn’t committed to playing anywhere for any price. At this point in his career, he has a right to be picky. Don’t forget about Adam Schefter’s report that Fox Sports wants to hire Romo as an analyst.
But assuming he is destined for the Texans or Broncos, wouldn’t those teams want him on their roster and in their building now to begin the transition?
If it was important enough to them, they would have pursued a trade. But in reality, NFL offseason programs won’t start until next month. There isn’t much of substance that Romo could be doing with new coaches and teammates now, anyway, at least at the team facility.
Is there a flashpoint of any kind on the horizon?
To the best that can be ascertained, there is no imminent deadline or other timing factor that would force a decision anytime soon. Romo could get impatient or the Cowboys might simply give up on pulling off a trade. Absent that turn of events, the issue could remain in stasis for several more weeks. The Broncos can’t start their offseason program until April 3 at the earliest. The Texans’ earliest start date is April 17.
ESPN Cowboys reporter Todd Archer contributed to this report.