What If Tony Romo Were a Different Kind of Texan?
If Romo is released, would the other NFL team in Texas pick him up?
One of the things that keeps Jerry Jones up at night other than not going to bed is the thought of Tony Romo leading the Houston Texans to a Super Bowl. I believe he’s made peace with Romo’s likely departure, but the possibility of him leading the other in-state team to new heights would probably be too much to bear.
“I really believe Tony Romo will play in a Super Bowl,” Jones told 105.3 the Fan on Tuesday. “Now tie that one on and consider the consequences for us. I know that if he’s healthy enough, standing, he’ll be in a Super Bowl. I strongly believe that.”
Jones and son Stephen say that not reaching a Super Bowl with Romo is perhaps their biggest failure, although fans could offer several more nominations. It’s unlikely the Cowboys will be able to get anything more than a third-round pick for Romo because they don’t have much leverage. Folks point to the Vikings sending a first-round pick to the Eagles for Sam Bradford, but that was because Teddy Bridgewater was lost for the season during training camp.
Romo might receive a post-June 1 designation which would allow the Cowboys to spread his $19.6 million cap hit over 2017 and 2018. The quarterback is extremely close to Jones, which could cause the owner to honor Romo’s probable preference to be released rather than traded. It’s unlikely Jones would ship Romo to a struggling franchise such as the Jets or Bills. There’s a belief in the organization that Romo would retire before playing in one of those places.
His most likely destinations are Denver and Houston, unless Carson Palmer decides to retire in Arizona. Both the Broncos and Texans made significant offers to quarterback Brock Osweiler at the start of free agency last March, but Houston “won” his services. Osweiler was eventually benched in favor of Tom Savage and though he won a playoff game against the Raiders, it’s unlikely he’ll win the starting job in ’17. That leaves us with Jerry’s doomsday scenario. Brian Gaine, the Texans’s assistant general manager, was with the Cowboys when Romo took the league by storm in 2006 and 2007. It just makes too much sense when you pair the NFL’s top-ranked defense (without J.J. Watt this season) with a solid running game with Lamar Miller. I assure you Jones is thinking about this scenario quite a bit. I even talked to a longtime Cowboys employee who thought Jones might worry about losing Cowboys fans in Houston. That sounds a bit far-fetched to me because most fans aren’t going to base their allegiance on one player, no matter how popular he’s been at times. The Texans aren’t going to find a better quarterback than Romo in free agency or in the draft.
The NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported Sunday the Broncos are “not inclined” to trade for Romo. I would have an easier time buying that from the Broncos if they had better options than Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch at quarterback. It was John Elway, the Broncos’s executive vice president of football operations and general manager, who signed Peyton Manning after he was released by the Colts. That move turned into two Super Bowl appearances, with one win. And Romo idolized Elway nearly as much as he did Brett Favre as a kid.
Elway doesn’t want to help create a market for Romo’s services, so he could be playing it down at this point. Jones would much prefer to trade Romo to the Broncos than the Texans, but he will balance that against trying to do right by Romo. The quarterback might try to work out a scenario where he doesn’t uproot his family from their Dallas home if he landed in Houston. His pal Sean Payton, the Saints head coach, contemplated commuting from New Orleans when his family lived in the Dallas area.
The Texans keep winning this watered-down AFC South, but they have been held hostage by the quarterback position. I actually thought trading for Osweiler was a bold move at the time, but it didn’t work. In the case of a trade, the Texans would likely need to do a new deal with Romo, who’s owed base salaries of $14.5 million, $19.5 million, and $20.5 million in the next three years.
Even though Romo has barely played the past two seasons due to injuries and being replaced by Dak Prescott, he has a chance to be a giant upgrade over what Texans coach Bill O’Brien has had to work with. I’ve talked to NFL scouts who believe the Cowboys could’ve been undefeated at this point with Romo as the starter. That sounds like hyperbole to me, but it suggests Romo still has admirers around the league.
If Texans owner Bob McNair wants to go all-in while sticking it to Jones, acquiring Romo is his best move. After watching Brian Hoyer and Osweiler the past couple seasons, I’m thinking Texans fans won’t hold the whole Cowboys thing against Romo.
Dear God, please let this happen.