Is It Worth It For The Denver Broncos To Pursue QB Tony Romo?

Nick Kendell masterfully sets up a few pins and knocks them down regarding the Romo situation.

If you are like many and already tired of the "Tony Romo to the Denver Broncos" offseason rumors, you might as well close out this article, log off of your favorite social media site, turn off the television, and unplug all of your digital devices because the Romo-to-Denver whispers will not be dying down anytime soon.

While the rumors and speculation may fly from now until June, the one question that the Broncos’ front office must answer is whether the roster is good enough to win with an upgrade at the quarterback position. There are multiple factors, both Romo and roster-related, that are important to consider when reflecting on this question. First, and foremost, the thing that needs to be considered is the Denver Broncos vaunted defense. 

“Are you serious with the defense? What about the offensive line? Or the young quarterbacks already on the roster?”

While it should go without saying that the defense, led by the deadly No-Fly Zone and the best speed-rusher in the NFL, Von Miller, was still an elite unit this past season, it absolutely took a step back as a whole from the Super Bowl 50 winning roster. The defense’s step back occurred due to a multitude of issues, including Vance Walker going down in training camp with an ACL injury, losing and not adequately replacing defensive studs Danny Trevathan and Malik Jackson, as well as the inevitable "regression to the mean" that occurs after such an amazing, yet statistically-outlying, season.

While Denver may not have a top-five all-time defense in the next few years (never say never though, Elway is pretty good at shutting down doubters), the defense is still one of the best and most talented in the entire NFL. However, the Super Bowl window that the defense allows is much shorter than the window an elite QB offers due to how many impact players it takes to build and maintain an elite defense in comparison to the window afforded to a team that has an elite QB (such as the long windows the Colts had with Manning, the Patriots have with Brady, and the Packers have with Rodgers).

Denver’s defense should be able to stay as one of the best in the NFL for the foreseeable future, with players like Miller, Darian Stewart, and Chris Harris in their primes, the talented yet oft-injured Brandon Marshall and Derek Wolfe, and older vets such as T.J. Ward and Aqib Talib, Denver's Super-Bowl window with their current roster structure is now, and every year used in flux at quarterback is a year the talented defense is squandered. If Elway and the Broncos are going to cash in on such a talented unit, they must improve the offense next year.

“Well, what about the young talent at quarterback on the roster already? Siemian played okay and Paxton oozes potential!”

After an up-and-down year from 2016's starting quarterback, Trevor Siemian, and trading up in the first round to select Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch in the 2016 NFL Draft, Denver does currently house options at starting quarterback for next season. While both are young and have upside, both have plenty of work to do before they join the middle tier of NFL quarterbacks, let alone the upper-echelon at the position.

Normally, quarterbacks do not come in and have an immediate impact like Ben Roethlisberger did when he was first drafted by Pittsburgh, or how Russell Wilson or Dak Prescott have done more recently. Having a quarterback so young come and succeed in that way is the exception, not the rule.

To expect either Siemian or Lynch to come in next year, with a new scheme and a mediocre offensive line, and compete at a Super Bowl-winning quarterback level is not only unrealistic, but unfair to the young quarterbacks. Instead, if Denver does plan on rolling out with one of the young guns, competing for the division and playoffs should be the expectation, as the offense undergoes the growths and the pains that come with grooming a young quarterback into an quality NFL signal-caller.

Well, what about the offensive line? Doesn’t that need to be addressed?” While Denver could (and absolutely should) use a good portion of its salary cap to fix the offensive line and the run game, would that be enough to support a young and maturing quarterback towards an NFL championship run? The answer to that is a resounding and deafening “maybe.” Elway has to address the offensive line in free agency and the draft in order to protect whoever is quarterback in the 2017-18 season and get the run game going. However, in a year with minimal talent on the offensive line in free agency and the draft, the solution is far more complicated and less assured than many would hope for.

After scouring the list of potential free agent tackles (Andrew Whitworth , Riley Reiff, Matt Kalil, Ricky Wagner) and considering the huge demand for quality offensive lineman, let alone offensive tackles, in the NFL, Elway is not guaranteed an upgrade at tackle. The tackle market looks so poor that Elway will likely even consider keeping Russell Okung by accepting his option, rather than losing him in free agency without an adequate replacement and making the offensive line an even worse unit. Instead of making big splashes in free agency, the Broncos will more likely need to depend on development of the young players already on the roster, smart drafting, and savvy free agent signings to help secure a better offensive line for the 2017 NFL season.

“With all of that said, is Romo even worth pursuing due to his age, durability, and contract questions?”

Once again, the answer should be nothing more than a ‘maybe’. There are too many questions about the current status of Tony Romo to say one way or the other. When Romo is healthy, he consistently puts up statistics that reflect a top ten quarterback. In 2014, his last fully healthy season, Romo was able to complete a 70 percent completion percentage, 247 yards per game, 8.5 yards per attempt, 9.1 yards per completion, 113.2 passer rating, and a QBR of 83.62. If Denver had been able to have that level of play at quarterback this season, they might be the ones playing the Atlanta Falcons this Sunday rather than New England Patriots.

The issue is that Romo has not been able to stay healthy. Furthermore, coming up on his age-37 season, Romo is on the last leg (or vertebrae) of his career. Playing behind a mediocre offensive line sounds like a recipe for disaster.

Romo also has a contract with a good chunk of guaranteed money on it that will make trading for him off-putting for Denver and the rest of the league. Denver may not have to deal with Jerry Jones and the Cowboys though, as it has been widely reported that most in the NFL expect the Cowboys not to find suitors for Romo in a trade due to his injuries, age, and contract.

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The league also knows that Jerry Jones has little to no leverage in a Romo trade due to Dallas’ current salary cap situation and reported desire to use Romo’s cap room to add needed talent to the defense. If the Cowboys do release Romo, as has been stated, Denver reportedly would have interest for the veteran’s services.         

Bringing Tony Romo to Denver would be a situation where all the stars would need to properly align to come to realization. Romo would need to be released by Dallas first, which is not guaranteed. Romo would then need to agree to a deal under Elway’s terms (Elway will not be cheated in contract negotiations) that leaves Denver room to add talent elsewhere and not leave them vulnerable to future guaranteed money on an older injury-prone quarterback. If this were to occur, Denver fans should be cautiously optimistic about the 2017 season and the Broncos’ chances to make Romo the third in a trilogy of older quarterbacks to ride off into the sunset.

Best case scenario, Elway brings in another older injured vet quarterback who sparks and solidifies the offense, which in turn compliments the elite Denver defense all the way to a fourth championship. Worse case scenario, Romo gets hurt, and Denver is relatively in the same place they are right now, building an offense and developing  a quarterback while aiming for contention (not just divisional, but Super Bowl) in two-to-three years.

While Romo is undoubtedly worth signing, it may be far riskier not to act while the defense is still elite and hoping one of the young quarterbacks is one of the few that develop into a quality starter at the toughest position in all of sports. For the right price and situation, Romo is worth the risk.

Nick Kendell is an Analyst for Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @ndkendell.

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