We’re not exactly at the point of concluding with a reasonable certainty that Tony Romo won’t be on the Dallas Cowboys next season. But all indications are pointing in that direction.
Romo himself has pretty much conceded that it’s Dak Prescott time in Dallas. And in reality, the rookie quarterback has done everything to prove that he’s the next coming of Russell Wilson. This is to say, Prescott has taken the starting job as a rookie and likely won’t be giving it back.
With the talent to still provide something of substance at quarterback, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Romo look for a starting job in the offseason. And with a near $25 million cap hit, it seems illogical that the Cowboys would keep him around.
Whether it’s via a trade or after being released, we can expect Romo to hit the open market come March. If so, there’s going to be a ton of interest in his services. Here are five of the likeliest destinations for the former Pro Bowl signal caller.
1. San Francisco 49ers
Despite some solid play from Colin Kaepernick over the past two games, San Francisco’s quarterback situation remains very much in flux. Kaepernick restructured his contract earlier in the season, which gives him the ability to opt out of his deal following the 2016 campaign. The very same restructure enables San Francisco to move on from him without a cap hit for the 2017 season (more on that here).
More to the point here. We have absolutely no idea what direction the 49ers are going to go in the draft. As of right now, they would be picking No. 2 overall behind the Cleveland Browns. If, and it’s a big if, Trent Baalke is still on as general manager, he’s shown a track record of avoiding skill-position players early in the draft. In fact, the 49ers have not gone in that direction since picking up the bust better known as A.J. Jenkins back in 2012.
The short of it is that San Francisco might very well look to pick up another defensive play-maker with the hypothetical second pick, especially if Cleveland goes quarterback No. 1 overall.
It’s also incredibly important to understand the financial situation here. Despite struggling through two injury-plagued seasons, Romo’s value has to be between $15 and $20 million annually in today’s market. Very few teams around the NFL will be able to afford that.
Depending on what happens with the Kap situation, San Francisco could very well be $90-plus million under the cap. It’s in this that the 49ers could easily pay Romo the near $25 million he’s set to earn next season. Add in Romo’s accuracy and how that might fit into Chip Kelly’s scheme, and this seems to be a match made in heaven.
2. New York Jets
Much like San Francisco, the Jets are in a quandary at the quarterback position. Sure the team has two young arms in Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg. But can any of us conclude that either has an opportunity to be a starter in the NFL? With Hackenberg, it might be too early. But what we do know is that he’s about as raw as they come. We saw Petty’s true colors Sunday against the Los Angeles Rams, and they weren’t all too shiny.
A rare team with four quarterbacks on its 53-man roster, neither Geno Smith nor the benched/injured Ryan Fitzpatrick can be seen as long-term solutions. Both are set to become free agents, which is a clear indication they will be leaving Jersey.
All this lends credence to the idea that the struggling Jets will look for a veteran quarterback come spring.
That’s only magnified by what promises to be a questionable standing when draft time comes calling. The Jets are bad. They’ve played poorly throughout the season. They have also won three games.
With the likes of Cleveland, San Francisco, Jacksonville and Chicago potentially picking ahead of the Jets, they might very well be left out of the dark when it comes to one of the top quarterbacks in what already appears to be a weak class.
There’s talent on this team pretty much everywhere. It has a capable running back group, one of the better all-around offensive lines in the NFL and a veteran-laden wide receiver core. On the other side of the ball, New York still boasts one of the best defensive lines in the NFL.
In reality, there’s a reason this team won 10 games a season ago. It had above-average quarterback play. This could very well be the one thing that draws Romo to the bright lights of the Big Apple.
3. Chicago Bears
Jay Cutler is finished in Chicago. He might start for the remainder of the season, but the writing is most definitely on the wall here. With two wins on the season, the Bears may also be considering a coaching change.
Unfortunately, those two wins do push the Bears back a notch behind both Cleveland and San Francisco when it comes to selecting at the top of the draft. If that’s the case, and with no other realistic quarterback option on the roster, Chicago might very well be forced to go for the second or third quarterback option in the draft if it is unable to add a veteran signal caller.
We know the Bears have shown some interest in Miami (F) quarterback Brad Kaaya, but selecting him anywhere near the top 10 would seem to be a tad of a reach. Instead, logic could suggest that the Bears look at a stopgap option while adding a prospect later in the draft.
There’s a lot more moving parts here than in New York or San Francisco. For the most part, we know both of those teams will be retaining their head coaches. Hence, the schemes they run likely won’t change from this season to next. That’s what makes those destinations more likely than Chicago.
Assuming for a second John Fox somehow retains his job and keeps his current coaching staff, a scenario could be in place for Romo to act as an upgrade over Cutler within the same scheme. It relies on a strong arm and quick decision making, two things that Romo himself has proven he’s capable of. Just some food for thought.
4. Denver Broncos
If Romo were to move on from the Cowboys after this season, he would pretty much be the most-prized player available. And while the Cowboys would likely retain their rights to trade him instead of releasing the veteran altogether, we’ve seen this dog and pony show before.
Organizations working with well-respected veterans to put them in the best position to succeed in a trade. The latest example of this is when San Francisco sent Alex Smith to the Kansas City Chiefs following the 2012 season.
If it’s all about winning for Romo, the Broncos might be his best chance. Even this season with Trevor Siemian performing much below the standard of a starting quarterback, Denver boasts a 7-3 record and is right in the thick of the AFC West race. This came on the heels of the Broncos winning the Super Bowl following a regular season that saw their quarterbacks throw 19 touchdowns compared to 23 picks.
From a Broncos’ standpoint, it’s rather obvious. No matter what happens moving forward as a team this season, acquiring an upgrade at quarterback has to be the No. 1 priority during the offseason. Romo would offer the best of both worlds in that he could help bring the raw Paxton Lynch along while holding down the fort under center for a couple seasons.
As we saw with the whole Colin Kaepernick ordeal this past spring, it might be all about finances here. With $83 million tied up to their seven highest-paid players next season, a lot would have to be reworked to bring Romo in, even if he were willing to take a discount from his $24.7 million cap hit.
5. Jacksonville Jaguars
The massive amount of regression we’ve seen from Blake Bortles this season really is something to behold. He has gone from potential franchise quarterback to a player head coach Gus Bradley had to answer questions about potentially being benched.
It’s just nine games into the 2016 season. Think about that for a second before assuming Bortles is automatically the Jaguars’ franchise quarterback.
Much like in Chicago, we can’t assume that Gus Bradley’s job is safe with the Jaguars. Even when taking Bortles out of the equation here for a second, the rest of the team has regressed from a season ago. It cost offensive coordinator Greg Olson his job and could lead to further changes moving forward.
With all that said, the idea of Romo being able to land on an offense with the likes of Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns, Marqise Lee and Julius Thomas has to be attractive to the veteran signal caller.