Cowboys 1st + 10: Is it Romo Decision Time?; Top 10 Storylines

In this weekend's 1st and 10, we explore why it could be Tony Romo decision time for everyone involved and why it's a good thing the Cowboys were able to lure back Darren McFadden ... The Top 10 Cowboys angles of the week!

1. Could this be the week we see some movement on Tony Romo? That’s what Fish and others on the case seem to believe. The NFL meetings are this week in Phoenix and that means everyone will be there, including the three people that could facilitate some sort of Romo trade — Dallas Cowboys executive VP Stephen Jones, Broncos GM John Elway and Texans GM Rick Smith.

Sure, Jerry Jones would ultimately be the decision-maker, but Stephen will do the legwork. And he will be in the same room with both Elway and Smith, including during committee meetings.

This probably represents the last, best chance for the Cowboys to move Romo via trade before the NFL Draft. These three guys won’t be in the same room again for quite some time, and certainly not before June 1, when the Cowboys really need to cut Romo before they absorb his complete cap hit for 2017.

So what can the Cowboys realistically get for Romo? Our Mike Fisher chimed in during a LONG Twitter conversation that I had with a Cowboys fan and a Texans fan Friday night:

If I were the Cowboys, a fifth- or sixth-rounder is probably the best you can do at this point. If Romo feels good about either of those teams, take the best deal you can get and move on. In my opinion, this needs to be wrapped up before optional workouts begin so it doesn’t become a complete circus.

2. Meanwhile, Tony Romo, TV Star? There’s an aspect all of this that has really been lost in the conversation about him being traded — retirement. Our Mike Fisher reported way back in November that it was a possibility (and even I wrote in a First and 10 column that Romo should at least consider the option way back in August, when he suffered the latest injury). The synopsis of why? He’s had four injuries in four years, two back surgeries and has a lovely wife and two kids, with a third on the way. With a 37-year old body and more than enough money to live on, the only reason to keep playing is for a ring. And that’s important for a football player, but you want to be able to enjoy that when your career is done. And news like this puts that retirement life in perspective:

So it’s not just the Broncos and Texans that seem to be in pursuit of Romo. It’s Fox and CBS, both of which have NFL TV contracts and both of which would appear to love to put Romo in a TV booth immediately, if he chose to leave the game. Fox has an open spot in their analyst rotation now that John Lynch is running the 49ers. CBS — whose interest was ballyhooed this weekend by ESPN’s Adam Schefter, but a full three months after first reported the specifics here — may not have a spot open, but they have a nifty value-add — a PGA Tour contract. Would Romo dig sitting in a tower on the 15th green riffing on Dustin Johnson’s approach shot when he’s not breaking down football? Maybe.

I think it’s about a 10-percent chance Romo leaves the game now. But, if he does, count on seeming him on a TV set near you shortly after.

3. The Cowboys fell into the right choice re-signing Darren McFadden. Lance Dunbar certainly has speed and can change the pace of a game, but at $3 million let the Rams have a talent with limits. With McFadden the Cowboys get a back who can spell Ezekiel Elliott, start if Elliott gets hurt, catch passes out of the backfield, pick up the blitz and contribute on special teams. It’s a no-lose for Dallas, which also has Alfred Morris. The Cowboys could even try to deal Morris for a draft pick, if they wish.

It’s nice to have options, especially when all three have been 1,000-yard rushers in their careers.

4. Starcast: Kaep vs. Kellen. On this edition of 'Cowboys STARCast,’ Jamie Horton and Mike Fisher discuss the reasons Tony Romo is still a member of the Dallas Cowboys. (Not to mention “still a golfer.’’ Click here for that.) Romo and son might've thrown some shade at Cowboys brass, or maybe ignorance is bliss. Tony Romo is far from blissfully ignorant, however. … right? The Good-Cop/Bad-Cop latest is here ... and in the podcast ...We discuss, you decide.

5. As for free agency, here is my quick analysis on the moves the Cowboys have made since my last First and 10 (losses and gains).


QB Mark Sanchez: Signed a 1-year deal with Chicago. There’s a chance for him to start. Good for him. Hope he capitalizes on it.


QB Kellen Moore: He was cheap and he knows the system. This does not preclude the Cowboys from pursuing another veteran QB.

OL Byron Bell: A former starting right tackle at Carolina and Tennessee before missing the 2016 season with a dislocated ankle. I feel like he’s a tackle version of a Mackenzy Bernadeau type of player — a guy who can start if he wins the job and experienced enough to back up in a pinch. Here's our story on Byron Bell.

Who’s left

We’re now to the point where we can list the Cowboys’ remaining unrestricted free agents: TE Gavin Escobar, DT Richard Ash, LB Justin Durant, LB Andrew Gachkar and LB Rolando McClain. If I had to project who might still be on Dallas’ radar at this point, I would think it would be either Durant or Gachkar. Either would be good depth at LB.

6. Takkarist McKinley and Taco Charlton give the Cowboys some interesting pre-draft visits to consider. The UCLA and Michigan edge rushers, respectively, have been connected to the Cowboys in recent mock drafts, including one of mine.

Edge rusher is of serious concern to the Cowboys, of course, but both of these players bring interesting things to the table, pro and con.

Charlton has a great first name and when I saw him play against Ohio State I was pretty impressed. You look at his history and you see a player whose sack total has gone up every year in college. But he was only a full-time starter his senior year and he missed games both his junior and senior years due to injury. So the medicals are important with Charlton, if only to make sure his injury issues aren’t chronic.

McKinley, meanwhile, had 10 sacks his senior year at UCLA. But he also has a torn labrum. You have to admire the guy’s pain threshold. He skipped the the Senior Bowl but competed in the combine before finally submitting to surgery. His arm was in a sling during his pro day. The recovery time is four months. If you’re the Cowboys, you need pass-rushing help now. It sounds like McKinley should be ready for training camp. But can Dallas really afford to take that risk?

We’ll see. That’s why the Cowboys are reportedly bringing in both players for a pre-draft visit. Time to do some homework, and we’ve already done some on McKinley below.

7. It sounds like the NFL is closer to making game officials full-time employees. But don’t expect officiating to get better right away because of it. Here’s why. Right now these guys are weekend warriors and the NFL plays them well. According to, under the current contract the average NFL official will make about $219,000 by 2019. If the NFL goes to full-time referees, I imagine the salary scale will see some adjustment.

But it still might not be enough to keep officials like Ed Hochuli. NESN had an interesting piece last year about what NFL officials do for day jobs. Hochuli is an attorney. Gene Steratore runs a janitorial supply company with a 300-company client list. Many of these officials run their own companies or have high-paying day jobs that pay more than the NFL. Officiating is something they love doing, but it’s a side gig.

What would the NFL have to pay Hochuli or Steratore to make it worth their while to come on full-time? It will probably have to be a lot more than the league average. And would a referee — many of them in their 50s and 60s — give up a high-paying gig that funds their retirement to take what would amount to a pay cut to be an NFL official full-time?

It’s an interesting paradox. The NFL’s approach to officials has allowed them to have their cake and eat it too. The move to a full-time officiating model might actually cause the NFL to lose experienced game officials and, for a short time, may cause officiating quality to go down until it gets better. Plus, there’s no guarantee the officiating gets better in a full-time model.

I’m interested to see how this transpires. If the NFL is smart they would implement this for 2018, not 2017, and use this season as a transitional year. Get current game officials to make their decisions about coming on full-time and then hire their replacements a year early and allow them to be mentored and shadow current officials on gameday. It could make for a more seamless transition.

8. Tweet of the Week

Does this qualify as trolling yourself? Discuss.

9. This week’s “Great Moments in Headline Porn: Should the Cowboys make a move for Malcolm Butler? From (

Has there been a single report of the Cowboys inquiring about Butler? So we’re just randomly speculating here? OK.

10. One More Thing ….

That’s a lot of Tony Romo up on that wall.

CowboysHQ Top Stories