There has been no pending NFL move that has been debated more than a decision that looms in Dallas.
Tony or Dak? The face of the franchise or the next face of the franchise? The respected leader or the hot rookie?
We all know the back story. Tony Romo, 36, was expected to get his job back when he returned from a back injury he suffered in August. Dak Prescott, a fourth-round draft pick, was just the caretaker of the most important job in North Texas. Of course, Prescott has complicated things by being a downright star, looking like a veteran Pro Bowl performer. The Cowboys are 5-1 – a mark no one was expecting even before Romo’s injury – and appear to be a legitimate playoff threat in the NFC.
The question now is, can the Cowboys really send Prescott to the bench? Of course, the other question remains, hasn’t Romo done enough to get his job back after an injury?
The answer to the last question always has been yes as far as the Dallas brass is concerned. But there has been some recent hedging going on in Dallas. After Prescott blew out the Packers in Green Bay on Sunday, it seems the idea of Romo going to the bench when he returns became more realistic.
The Cowboys are on a bye this week and then return Oct. 30 for a critical game against Philadelphia. Recently, that was considered the target return date for Romo. However, because he hasn’t returned to practice, he likely won’t be ready to return until early November.
Here is another date to keep in mind: Nov. 1. That is the date of the NFL trade deadline.
Could the Cowboys actually trade Romo? If they go with Prescott, Romo will not be pleased and he will want to play somewhere. A more likely scenario would be a trade next March when the 20107 league calendar begins. But I’d think some teams would be interested in adding a talent like Romo.
Let’s look at potential fits for Romo if they Cowboys decide to move him, whether it is during this season or next spring. There would be salary-cap issues (particularly if a deal was done during the season) and there are complications for nearly every team that could use Romo, so there are few perfect fits.
Teams with big needs
New York Jets: The Jets are 1-5, so there isn’t much urgency to get a deal done. But the Jets are well coached and have a decent defense. Adding Romo (as we all saw Monday night, Ryan Fitzpatrick is not the answer) would make the Jets better for the rest of the season and they could be a playoff contender for a season or two with him. The Jets easily can shed a lot of salary-cap room after the season and Fitzpatrick is off the books. Adding Romo would be easy and be similar to the Brett Favre deal last decade.
Chicago: The Bears are also 1-5 and out of the playoff mix. Plus, they are getting decent play from Brian Hoyer. It is clear the Jay Cutler era is nearing its end in Chicago. The question in the offseason would be if the Bears think Romo would be the missing link. The Bears may have too long of a rebuild to add Romo at this point in his career. A cheaper option in Hoyer may be a smarter bridge to a young quarterback.
Cleveland: The Browns badly need a quarterback. But they need to draft one next year. Adding Romo would make no sense.
San Francisco: Ditto.
Arizona: It very likely wouldn’t happen until next year. But if the Cardinals think Carson Palmer, who’ll turn 37 four months earlier than Romo, can’t get the job done, this could be a fit. There are rumblings in the scouting community that Palmer might be near the end. If the Cardinals lose faith in Palmer, Romo could come in and keep their Super Bowl window open. The cap could be tight, but it would be workable, and Romo may take less to play for a contender.
Buffalo: It seems like the Bills feel good about Tyrod Taylor, and he signed a long-term deal. But the Bills can get out of it if they want. They are building a contender and maybe Rex Ryan and company think Romo would provide a quick road to the Super Bowl. But it’s likely Taylor does enough to keep the Bills from making that move.
Denver: Remember, this is the out-of-the-box section. What if John Elway gets an itch and thinks he can win another quick Super Bowl with Romo but not Trevor Siemian or Paxton Lynch? A move during this season would be close to impossible because of cap room, but maybe Denver would swing it next year. It would only be a possibility if the Broncos don’t think Lynch will be ready to play next year, which is probably unlikely.
Houston: The only way this would work is if the Texans could find a trade partner for Brock Osweiler, which would probably be unlikely. The Texans aren’t far away from being a real contender and they’d be better with Romo than Osweiler for the short term, but it would be tough to maneuver.
Los Angeles: The Rams aren’t bad. Maybe they look at Romo after the season and think he is worth a two-year shot at the Super Bowl. That would mean they are this admitting this year’s No. 1 overall pick, Jared Goff, is still a long way away. That would be a setback to the franchise, but perhaps Romo could ease the sting.
Miami: The Dolphins would be in a similar situation with Ryan Tannehill that the Texans would be with Osweiler if they wanted to make a play for Romo. But Tannehill might be easier to trade because some teams may like him, and he has a slightly easier contract to deal. But are the Dolphins really just a Tony Romo away from winning the Super Bowl?
Washington: If the Redskins don’t want to pay Kirk Cousins and they can make an easier, quicker Super Bowl run with Romo, they could be interested. But would Jerry trade Romo in the NFC East?
Conclusion: There probably aren’t many fits for Romo to be traded by Nov. 1. By March, though, there could be some flexibility for teams. So, if Prescott stays the starter in Dallas, Romo may have to wait until next season to become a starter … somewhere.