Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo held a press conference Tuesday evening to show his support for rookie Dak Prescott, whom Romo says has “earned the right to be our quarterback.” The Cowboys veteran has been sidelined all season with a fractured vertebra that he suffered against the Seahawks in the preseason, but has returned to practice and is expected to be active in Week 11.
However, the Cowboys’ longtime starter will now be the backup quarterback.
"To say the first half of the season has been emotional would be a huge understatement," Romo said on Tuesday. "Getting hurt when you feel like you have the best team you've ever had was a soul-crushing moment for me.”
Prescott has led the team to the best record in the NFL, and if there was any doubt left about who the starting quarterback was, Prescott erased that when he led the Cowboys to a comeback victory against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 10.
“He's guided our team to an 8-1 record and that's hard to do,” Romo said. “If you think for a second that I don't want to be out there, then you've probably never felt the pure ecstasy of competing and winning.”
A lot was said by Romo, and his future seems uncertain, so we looked at all of the options he has moving forward.
The Cowboys could trade Romo, or release him and let him sign with a new team
There is no question another team would like to use up whatever Romo’s got left. Sure, Romo is 36, and will be 37 years old by the time he could play for another team, but the last time he was on the field and healthy, he was playing really good football. He completed nearly 70 percent of his passes, threw for 34 touchdowns, and just nine picks in 2014.
Romo is set to earn a base salary of $14 million next season. If the Cowboys decide to trade or release him, his contract will still count for $19.6 million against the cap next season. If they cut him by June 1, they could split the hit, with $10.7 million going against the 2017 salary cap and $8.9 million in 2018.
Here are a few teams that might like to have Romo’s services at their disposal next season:
New York Jets
The New York Jets currently have four quarterbacks on the roster. Two of them — an injured Geno Smith and an ineffective Ryan Fitzpatrick — likely won’t be back next season. Second-year quarterback Bryce Petty earned his first start just this past week and didn’t exactly light the world on fire in a 9-6 loss to the Rams. Petty completed 19 of 32 passes for 163 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. Christian Hackenberg, a rookie with raw ability, has yet to play.
However, the chance for two young quarterbacks to learn behind a veteran like Romo could interest the Jets, who have yet to find stability under center.
The Broncos are currently sticking with Trevor Siemian, but his pedestrian numbers suggest he won’t be the quarterback of the future in Denver. The Broncos also have rookie Paxton Lynch, a first-round pick, but having Romo in place to bridge the gap for Lynch could be a good investment for them.
It’s seems increasingly likely that the Bears will move on from Jay Cutler this offseason. It won’t cost them much to release him this offseason, either. Cutler isn’t much younger than Romo and the Bears have only made the playoffs once since he joined the team in 2009.
They do have a few young pieces on offense, including Kevin White, Marquess Wilson, and Jordan Howard, and the addition of a quarterback like Romo could help their development. It makes less sense for a rebuilding team like the Bears, given Romo’s age and the fact that he’s probably looking for one last shot at a Super Bowl, but you never know.
We’re required to include Cleveland on any list regarding a possible starting quarterback. The Browns continue searching, in vain, for any kind of consistency at quarterback. This season, six different players have taken snaps under center. Since 1999, 26 quarterbacks have started games for Cleveland.
The Browns might not want to risk trying out another quarterback with health concerns, but Romo is a proven winner. Plus, they have the most cap space, which is key.
OK, this one is a bit of a wild card, but they should also be mentioned. The Texans are probably stuck with Brock Osweiler for another season because of the ridiculous contract they gave him that includes a $19 million cap hit next year. Still, if would be something if Romo traveled down I-45 to play for the other team in Texas.
Of course, Romo’s age would be a red flag for a lot of teams. But he has the skills and we’ve seen other quarterbacks like Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, and Drew Brees have success in their late 30s. For some teams, most of the other talent is in place, it’s just that pesky quarterback position that needs fixing. Romo could undoubtedly be that missing piece for another team.
But hold on, the Cowboys could still keep him
We would be remiss to rule out the possibility of Romo not playing for the Cowboys ever again. All it would take is a bad game or two from Prescott, and Romo would be right back out on the field. For the longest time, Jerry Jones maintained that this was Romo’s team when he was healthy again, and that’s not for no reason. The two have a great relationship, and Romo has been the franchise quarterback for a decade.
If Romo were to get back under center for the Cowboys, he would get a chance with “the best team [he’s] ever had,” as he called this year’s Cowboys team. If Romo were in 2014 form with this season’s talent, he could potentially have his job back until he retires, or gets hurt again. After all, Romo was very supportive of the team in his press conference.
“I'm not going to allow this situation to negatively affect Dak or this football team by becoming a constant distraction,” Romo said. “I think Dak knows that I have his back. And I think I know that he has mine. Ultimately, it's about the team. It's what we've preached our entire lives."
It could prove to be a dangerous team in a Romo return. Dez Bryant’s numbers have been down with Prescott at quarterback. Part of that has been his injuries, but Prescott also hasn’t thrown the deep ball as effectively as Romo. If Bryant is able to find his old form with Ezekiel Elliott running teams out of the building, who knows how great the Cowboys could be.
Retirement is also a possibility, though not likely
Romo’s been through a rough, injury-plagued career. Some have been much worse than others. Back in 2008, he suffered a broken right pinkie finger that led him to miss three games. In 2010, he broke his left collarbone, and missed 10 games. A ruptured disk led him to miss the 2013 finale, and he missed a game in 2014 with two transverse process fractures.
Of course, last season he suffered two more broken left collarbone injuries, which caused him to miss 12 games. Finally, this preseason, he had a compression fracture in his L1 vertebra, which has kept him out all season. He’s had a great career, there’s no question. He’s currently third all-time in career passer rating at 97.1.
But at 36 years of age, and with a battered and bruised body, nobody would blame Romo for walking away from the game. We’ve seen the damage the game of football can have.
Yet, it was just in July when Romo said he wanted to play for another 10 years. He was also adamant that “the desire burns to be the best.”
“It's why I still want to play and compete,” Romo said.
The big question now is where that will be.