1. I wrote a couple of months ago the Cowboys would investigate trading Tony Romo. I didn’t quite think it would go down quite like this, though. I thought it would be a slow burn, with the Cowboys using the first two months of this offseason to lay the groundwork for a deal. Instead, it seemed to come in a flurry. I talked with Wess Moore on Thursday around noon to talk about the Romo situation and other free agency news. Just after that, ESPN’s Chris Mortensen broke this:
This was after 48 hours of Fish and everyone reporting that the Dallas Cowboys and Romo had talked and, well, Romo was going to be released Thursday. Romo even posted a “Thanks for Everything” video:
So what happened?
From my perspective, the Cowboys either suddenly got an inquiry about Romo or Jerry Jones found a way to gin up some interest using the media. Given that it was Mortensen breaking the report, one of the best in our business, I lean toward the former. Consider this scenario:
The Denver Broncos know they have a great team and they’re a quarterback away from making another run. That’s what GM John Elway wants. You have Trevor Siemien and Paxton Lynch on your roster. Neither will do it. You think you have a shot at Romo but you don’t want to run the risk of him hitting the open market and getting wooed by another team (Hello, Houston). So you execute the following on Thursday and Friday. You agree to terms with one of Romo’s familiar offensive linemen, Ron Leary. The next day you agree to terms with a tackle, Melenik Watson. Both signings are a way of addressing their weakness up front and to send a message to a certain QB.
One imagines Romo watched all of that. So did his agent. So did Jones. Now Elway makes a phone call and tries to lure Jones into a deal for Romo that’s a little more to his liking.
It’s not far-fetched. NFL teams do this all the time. Sometimes the value is there, the teams agree and the deal gets done whenever. In many cases, though, one team waits until another blinks and gets a deal closer to what they want. I think Jones has always been ready to deal Romo — as long he gets something solid in return AND it’s to a team Romo wants to move to, and I feel certain Denver is on the list. So Elway and Jones played a little game of day-long poker and nothing materialized. Yet.
What really stuns me is that Romo isn’t in Houston. I imagine the Texans are on his list, too. Plus, the Texans pulled the wool over the eyes of the Cleveland Browns and somehow convinced them to trade for Brock Osweiler. So, there’s a QB1 job open, the Texans get some cap space back AND the Texans have an extra second-round pick in 2018 to deal. That’s more than enough value to facilitate a deal. But then I saw John McClain of the Houston Chronicle report Friday that the Texans would prefer Romo be released before pursuing him.
So, now what?
I agree with our Mike Fisher — Romo holds the cards here and really has no reason to be pushy about a resolution. Any way you look at this he’s going to get paid and have a place to play in 2017, if he wants it. I assure you he’s in the loop. If I’m in Romo’s shoes, you let the process play out and the only pressure you apply is the “where,” as in “where you trade me.” If you’re the Cowboys it’s fine to take a moment and try and get some value for Romo because, as Fish has explained, the cap hit is pretty much the same whether you release him or trade him.
This is a good old-fashioned game of NFL chicken. My bet is that it’s resolved sometime next week. And my bet is Romo ends up in Denver, no matter how this shakes out. But just in case, here are my and Matt Galatzan’s cases for Denver and Houston, respectively.
2. My thoughts on the Cowboys that are no longer Cowboys, as of noon Saturday?
S Barry Church: This one hurts. After Sean Lee he was the most important player on the Cowboys defense the past two or three years. He leaves a gaping hole in the secondary and you’d better hope Jeff Heath can fill it. But you can’t blame him for taking the money in Jacksonville. It’s probably his last shot at big NFL money.
OG Ron Leary: I’m happy for him. He wanted a trade last year. He didn’t get it. He accepted the backup role and then thrived when La’el Collins got hurt. Now he’s getting big money from the Broncos. He’s a great undrafted free agent success story. I’m sad to see him go because I’m not 100 percent sure that Collins is the answer at left guard. But with a huge contract coming for Zack Martin, there’s no way the Cowboys could keep Leary, too.
Fish hangs with Ron here.
S J.J. Wilcox: On his way to Tampa Bay. It hurts from a depth standpoint, but I think the Cowboys can find a capable replacement. He’s a dime-a-dozen kind of player, in my opinion.
DT Terrell McClain: Not a huge loss. He was nice depth, but he’s replaceable.
DL Jack Crawford: I kind of feel the same way about Crawford. Nice player, nice depth. But he’s certainly not worth the money the Falcons paid him.
3. My thoughts on the Cowboys that remained Cowboys, as of noon Saturday?
WR Terrance Williams: My sentiment when I found out he re-signed with the Cowboys?
Our Mike Fisher has the deets — $17 million over four years, of which $10 million is guaranteed and incentives could take it to $22 million. How the money is distributed is key. I assume the contract is back-loaded for the cap hit.
WR Brice Butler: A one-year, $1 million deal with $300K guaranteed. Good value. I’m just not sure about the player. But at that value I’ll roll the dice.
DE David Irving: He signed the exclusive rights free agent tender, which nets him some security for 2017 and the Cowboys a cheap value at defensive end. He was never going anywhere. I’m interested to see if he grows as a player.
4. My thoughts on the new Cowboys, as of noon Saturday?
DE Damontre Moore: He qualifies as the Cowboys’ reclamation project for 2017. It’s a 1-year deal for a player that’s never fulfilled his potential and has had plenty of off-field problems. Expect Jerry to love talking about him.
DT Stephen Paea: The former Browns tackle qualifies as McClain’s replacement for depth purposes and ESPN’s Todd Archer reported it’s a 1-year, $2 million deal. The Tonga native by way of New Zealand and Oregon State played for Rod Marinelli in Chicago. You can bet he was consulted.
CB Nolan Carroll: A solid acquisition, especially if the Cowboys can’t re-sign Brandon Carr or Morris Claiborne. It’s a reported 3-year deal at $10 million, with Tom Pelissero reporting Carroll gets $4 million the first year. Sounds like a front-loaded deal the Cowboys could get out of if needed. Not a huge playmaker (just eight career interceptions), but he should fit in.
5. Need to keep up with free agency? Let me help. Our Mike Fisher has been all over it, as the following tweets attest. It’s some of the best free agency coverage you’ll find, and it’s only at CowboysHQ.com.
And so much more at CowboysHQ.com.
6. Watching all these teams run around trying to find a quarterback should make you real happy the Cowboys found Dak Prescott. Mike Glennon just got $15 million from the Chicago Bears and Osweiler cost the Browns a second-round pick. Which just goes to show …
7. I put together another 7-round mock draft this week, just before free agency began. In this case, I found the board yielded some solid defensive opportunities for the Cowboys, players that could add to their depth and yield production this year. Check it out today.
8. It’s our Tweet of the Week:
Ah the pendulum of free agency. Fans wanted to roast McClay at noon on Friday. By Friday night, they were ready to toast the value of re-signing Terrance Williams and luring two solid vets to help the defense.
9. This week’s great moments in headline porn: “Ex-Cowboys DE Greg Hardy avoids jail in drug case” from foxsports.com
Not headline porn, really. Just a reminder of the bullet the Cowboys dodged when they cut bait on this guy.
10. And one more thing...
The farewell issue of Dallas Cowboys Star Magazine is now available. It used to be Dallas Cowboys Weekly. I remember getting my DC Weekly in the mail as a kid. It’s a sad day for me, in all honesty.
Want to talk more Cowboys? Hit the CowboysHQ.com message boards or hit up Postins @PostinsPostcard or Mike Fisher @FishSports on Twitter.