The Tony Romo era will be officially over in Dallas soon. The Cowboys will either trade or release their former franchise quarterback on Thursday and continue his career with a new team in 2017.
According to Adam Schefter and Todd Archer, the Cowboys were set to release Romo, but a trade may still be on the table, according to Chris Mortensen. Either way, Romo’s time with the Cowboys is through.
Despite his injury history, there are several passer-needy teams who could use Romo’s services, and with a limited free agent market for quarterbacks, he’ll be in high demand. Teams like the Texans and Broncos appear just one steady quarterback from contention and would give the 37-year-old the chance to end his career-long Super Bowl drought. Both of those teams have been considered the most likely landing spots for Romo and are reportedly in talks about a potential trade.
Other teams like the Bears, Jets, Bills, and Rams could use a veteran hand behind center, though they won’t be nearly as appealing for Romo. He’ll spice up the 2017 offseason as teams jockey to add him in hopes he’ll be the missing piece of their championship rosters.
Romo rose from afterthought to All-Pro in his 13 seasons with the Cowboys. He was a three-time Ohio Valley Conference Player of the Year and one-time Walter Payton Award winner (the FCS’s equivalent of the Heisman) during a storied career at Eastern Illinois University. However, he went overlooked in the 2003 NFL Draft, instead signing with Dallas as an undrafted free agent.
He spent his first two seasons backing up Drew Bledsoe and Vinny Testaverde before replacing Bledsoe in 2006. He was an instant hit in Dallas, making the Pro Bowl in three of his first four seasons as a starter and leading the franchise to winning records in each of those years.
Though he’d miss the majority of the 2010 season with a broken collarbone, Romo remained a reliable starter for the Cowboys well into the next decade. That changed in 2015, when another collarbone injury limited him to only four games. Backup Matt Cassel struggled in relief, leading the team to draft Dak Prescott in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL Draft as both a backup plan and potential quarterback of the future.
That backup plan was driven into high gear last fall. Romo suffered a broken vertebrae in his back during the preseason, handing the starting role to Prescott, who was a revelation behind center. The rookie set the NFL record for most pass attempts to start a career without and interception and helped lead Dallas to an NFC East title and the conference’s best record in 2016.
His ascension made the veteran passer an expensive insurance policy — one that didn’t make sense for the team to keep. Cutting Romo brings huge savings for the Cowboys and trading would clear him from the books. He was set to count $24.7 million against the team’s salary cap, the highest cost of any player in the NFL. While he’ll still cost the team $19.6 million in dead money, that’s $5.1 of savings next fall and $20 million for 2018.
Soon he’ll be on another team for the first time in his NFL career.