Romo Staying Off IR As Cowboys Try Not To Mishandle QBs Role

As Fish reports that the Cowboys aren't quite yet ready to IR Tony Romo, they've meanwhile failed to adequately address the backup QB situation the last few years. They appear to finally be ready to course-correct and we'll take you inside ...

With Tony Romo theoretically knocked out for the rest of the season -- and we say "theoretically'' for a reason -- a lot of discussion is now taking place on how the Dallas Cowboys should address the future of the position. It’s a discussion that has been bubbling under the surface for far too long, honestly, as those with a long-distance scope attached to their weaponry have cried out. My belief that Dallas has wasted the opportunity to get a young QB in place and groomed to be Romo’s eventual successor has been well documented. Dallas is now in a position where they have to address the elephant in the room, because it sat it’s fat ass right square on the team’s 2015 Super Bowl hopes.

But first things first, via Fish:

And why? It's understandable ...

That's the future. But then there is the immediate past as it relates to Romo and more ...

Dallas’ front office rolled the dice that they would be able to wring out a productive scenario for Romo through age 38 based on several factors; but it appears now that was a far-fetched wish instead of a solid gameplan. Romo had back surgeries in back-to-back offseasons, broke his back the subsequent season and broke his clavicle, twice, the following year.

Dallas believed that a veteran backup was the best way to approach the quarterback position for a team with playoff aspirations. That has proved to be incorrect. The Cowboys have lost the last 9 games someone other than Tony Romo has started at the position. It isn’t because all backup quarterbacks are bad; they are or else they’d be starting somewhere in a league desperately short on starting talent at the position. The issue is that the Cowboys offense is so heavily reliant on Tony Romo’s brilliance, they aren’t very good at executing without Romo telling everyone what to do. This isn’t specific to the players, either. Tony Romo seems to know more about how to conduct the Cowboys offense than the coaching staff itself does.

Hindsight is 20/20, but it isn’t hindsight to believe it would’ve been a much better strategy to roll with a developmental player there instead of a retread. Let’s be clear, here. “Developmental” guy at the quarterback position really means a 2nd or 3rd rounder.. possibly a 4th. Per Dallas Morning News, there have been 57 QBs who have started at least one Super Bowl. Half of them were first rounders. Almost 25% of them were taken in Rounds 2 or 3. The quarterback position is special. When you take a position player in the 2nd or 3rd round you expect immediate contribution, that doesn’t need to be the edict at QB.

With quarterback, in a league where it’s growing increasingly difficult to find a capable one, you take risks in selecting one in rounds 2 or 3. If their rookie contracts expire and your franchise QB is still humming along are you in a bind? Trade them, you will likely recoup at the very least the draft pick you spent on them and then reload at the position. Quarterback is THAT important; taking this risk is worth the gamble because the return would be so great. Looking at the success rates of draft picks in general, a smart team wouldn’t eschew the chance at finding a great backup just because the rules have limited how much development time they now get in practice, and it’s not a lot.

Unless of course the club has no confidence in grooming a player at the position; which could very much be the case in Dallas based on their track record of completely ignoring the position for over a decade.

Derek Carr, Brock Osweiler, Russell Wilson, Kirk Cousins… these are all quarterbacks taken in the 2nd – 4th rounds in recent years who are proving their value this season. Let’s say Dallas had drafted Brock Osweiler, who’s contract expires at the end of the season, and 2015 played out the way it has so far. Did Brock get more practice time behind Peyton Manning than he would have behind Romo? Doubtful. So at the end of the season, if they truly believed Romo had two-three years remaining and didn’t want to turn the reigns over, think of the bounty Osweiler would get on the trade market? There would be at least one team willing to give up a first and third rounder for his services; which Dallas could use to parlay into getting a new future heir of their choice.

This isn’t wishful thinking, this is forethought that the organization has been reluctant to execute under the guise of “why spend a pick on a quarterback with so many other holes?” Well, the backup quarterback hole sunk this potential Super Bowl run (notwithstanding Romo’s second injury). Dallas spends their draft capital on players that have limited opportunity for early snaps all the time.

With that out of the way, Dallas now knows it must get a quarterback in the system and immediately. CowboysHQ will continue to provide the best draft coverage on the web and dissect the merits of an interesting quarterback class that doesn’t have the cache at the top like last year’s Jameis Winston – Marcus Mariota battle. We’ll go over all of the top candidates in depth once the offseason arrives.

Tony Romo’s contract, barring any restructuring for cap space in 2016, allows for Dallas to escape it after 2016 and still see cap savings. Most observers look at the high amount of dead money that would be on the books, but organizations allocate their cap based on percentages used on specific positions. A cheap young quarterback means that they could eat the Romo dead money in 2017.

This year, Dallas ranks 11th of all NFL teams in the amount of money being paid to the quarterback position: $16.9 million. In 2016, they are only slated to move up to 10th, even though the positional spending balloons to $20.8m, and barring any extension for another QB on a different team. In 2017 though, that again has a major jump of almost $4m, to $24.7 million for the position. That would rank second in the entire league and it’s doubtful the Cowboys want to be there.

Releasing Romo after the 2016 season (or him retiring) would keep Dallas near the $20m threshold for positional spending. He would’ve played three years under his last extension (the true worth of any contract) and designating him as a June 1st cap casualty would theoretically allow them to spread 3 years of “going rate” for QBs over a five-year period. That would be outstanding financial management.

As a June 1st cut, Romo would save the Cowboys $14m in 2017 cap space, and “only” cost them $5.7 million of dead money on the 2018 cap.

Would Romo take a pay cut? Would they even ask? Those are legitimate questions for keeping Romo in-house beyond next season. Something must happen and the only way for Dallas to insure themselves from being left out in the cold is to act now on getting that future quarterback.  The most likely scenario is in the draft, seeing how unlikely it is for another team to give up on a player with that sort of potential.

Would the team trade for Johnny Manziel, to kick the tires as Fish alluded to here? It’s an extremely plausible scenario, but it hinges on Cleveland actually parting ways with the troubled signal caller. That’s an assumption most fans make that doesn’t seem to be based on anything specific. The owner forced the pick on the front office. The coaching staff has been hesitant to let him develop… what makes people believe that the owner is weary of JFF’s antics?

If he is, why would Cleveland trade him prior to knowing they have their next future franchise QB in fold? That can’t be guaranteed without a Number One pick, so it could come down to draft day before Manziel is even available. Yes, trade parameters would be worked out in advance, but how interesting would that make Dallas’ approach to the 2016 draft?

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