He’s hardly a forgotten man in Dallas, but with Dak Prescott’s emergence as “the man” in Big D, Tony Romo may be looking at an address change in the off-season.
Injuries have kept Romo from playing all but five games the last two seasons for the only team he’s known and even once he got healthy, he still didn’t get a sniff of the field during the playoffs. Even when the Cowboys were down 21-3 to Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers in their divisional playoff game, Dallas stick with Prescott, who is now undoubtedly the QB of their future.
Going forward, though, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has to decide if he wants to keep paying Romo a team high $18 million into 2020 to sit on the bench, just in case — especially when he has Prescott under contract until 2020 for chump change (just over $680,000 per year).
So, Jones might want to consider getting a return on his expensive, but still capable, 36-year-old QB and make a deal. Or just cut him loose to the open market. Knowing Romo and his love for the spotlight, he’ll ideally want to go to a contender in a warmer climate. We’ll see.
Here are 10 teams that could use Romo’s veteran arm, from least to most likely.
10. Buffalo Bills
Hear us out on this one, and a couple after. We did say least likely, after all. The Bills haven’t had a bona fide pivot since Doug Flutie (1998-2000), and before him Jim Kelly. That’s an awful long time for the faithful to have to suffer a whole lot of bad signal callers. Should Jerry Jones either give Romo his outright release to negotiate, or trade him for whatever package he can get, the Bills would do well to find a way to fit his arm into their line-up for a few seasons. The tandem of Tyrod Taylor and E.J. Manuel has not been the answer in the Queen City. Taylor as a starter was 25th best in yards (3,023), 24th in TD passes (17) and 18th in QB rating (89.6). His only saving grace was the fact he tossed just six interceptions, but that is relative, since he was 25th in pass attempts (436). There are more cons to Romo going to Buffalo than pros, one being available money, two being no Dez Bryants on the roster to throw to, and three Buffalo being a small market in a cold, not very glamorous place.
9. Cleveland Browns
Even more of a mess than Buffalo, but maybe, just maybe, the 1-15 Browns will do something right for a change and bring in a game-changing QB. The Browns used no less than five, yes five, quarterbacks this past season, none to any great effect at all. The rogues gallery included Cody Kessler, Josh McCown, Robert Griffin III, Charlie Whitehurst, and Kevin Hogan. It got so bad, that just figuring out who the man under center was became nearly impossible. Therefore, Cleveland should clean house, keep one or two of them (like Kessler, who is going into his second season) and get a guy like Romo to fling the ball downfield to legitimate threats like Terrelle Pryor and Gary Barnidge. Cleveland, though, is hardly a place of forgiveness, what with the rabid “Dawg Pound” and recent history of loss, after loss, after gutting loss.
8. Minnesota Vikings
The Vikes were not very good this season, nor very bad, going 8-8 and missing the playoffs for the third time in four seasons. They have a pretty good defense and have a trio of good, young pass catchers in WR Stefon Diggs, TE Kyle Rudolph, and WR Adam Thielen. At quarterback, the Vikings lost Teddy Bridgewater before the season even started, then dealt a 2017 first round pick to Philadelphia for Sam Bradford. The well-traveled Bradford had his best season in six campaigns, but will he be the Bradford of 2016 heading into the next season, or the fairly mediocre one he was with Philly before he got moved? That said, it would behoove Minnesota brass to explore their options at QB. Romo is better statistically in just about every major category and would add some panache to a team in sore need of it. They are close to being a contender (they went 11-5 in 2015) and a bold move might vault them to the next level.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars
So much for that attempted re-build in Jacksonville. After many off-season moves, the Jags were looking to contend, only to finish dead last in a weak AFC South with a horrid 3-13 record. Safe to say, too, that the Blake Bortles experiment has been a flop. He was 15th in passing yards with 3,905 and passed for 23 TDs (also 15th), but was picked 16 times (tied for fourth worst) and sacked 34 times (14th worst). His passer rating also dipped nearly 10 full points to 78.8 from the 88.2 he put up during a pretty good 2015 campaign. So, with a warmer climate and a promising receiver corps that includes Allen Robinson and Marqise Lee, Jacksonville could be a wild-card team that Romo would fit in well with. Sure, it’s not a major market, but if the Jags shake things up even a little bit, they could at least be the best team in Florida.
6. Chicago Bears
Chicago is the biggest market we’ve identified yet and the Bears are in dire need of a top shelf pivot. The Bears were awful in 2016, finishing 3-13 — the worst campaign they’ve had since going 4-12 in 2002. It also marked the sixth straight year the Bears have missed the playoffs, which can’t sit well with the legions of fans. The revolving door at QB saw third-year back-up Matt Barkley pushed into the breech for six starts at the end of the season. He went 1-5, threw eight TD passes, 14 interceptions, and logged a 68.3 passer rating. This after ho-hum Brian Hoyer also went 1-5 in relief of the dour Jay Cutler, who was his usual un-thrilling self in five starts (1,059 yards, four TD, five INT). Time, then, for the Bears to part ways with the miserable signal caller, as well as Hoyer and bring in a real quarterback.
5. Miami Dolphins
Miami is just the sort of glitzy town that limelight-loving Tony Romo could get used to. Now, the Dolphins aren’t that bad off in the QB department and have hinted that injured pivot Ryan Tannehill will compete for the starter’s job with capable back-up Matt Moore. We say they shouldn’t bother and instead go for the brass ring and bring in Romo (should he be available to sign or trade for), especially in a division still ruled by Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. Before he was injured, Tannehill was decent, throwing for 2,995 yards, 19 TD, 12 INT and a passer rating of 93.5 in 13 games. Moore mopped up well the rest of the way (721 yards, eight TD, three INT, 105.6 rating) and wasn’t terrible in the wild card loss to Pittsburgh. But “wasn’t terrible” doesn’t quite cut it on a team that once called the great Dan Marino its own. Time for the Fish to get serious about contending.
4. San Francisco 49ers
What better way for the 49ers to distance themselves from a putrid 2-14 season marred by the whole “SitGate” thing by former star QB Colin Kaepernick than to bring in a veteran quarterback like Romo. From the time Kaepernick decided not to stand for the Star Spangled Banner during a pre-season game, the 49ers were doomed to failure. Kaepernick was awful early on after a crappy 2015, forcing the coaching staff to start Blaine Gabbert for six games. He won his first start, but lost his next four in a row and was yanked early in his sixth game. Kaepernick got behind center the rest of the way, but it was too little, too late to save the Niners season. He was not the pivot he was just a few seasons ago and with his protests and all the social media attention it got (good and bad) he just became an un-needed distraction. The Bay Area, then, would seem a prime time destination for a quarterback of Romo’s stature and a place he could win in, given the right cast of characters around him.
3. New York Jets
From the West coast way over to the East coast we go. The 5-11 New York Jets were one of the worst offensive teams in football this season (scoring just 275 points, third worst in the NFL), for very good reason. The “Amish Rifle” Ryan Fitzpatrick was more like a BB gun this year, throwing for just 2,710 yards and 12 TDs in 14 games this year. However, he compounded his own problems getting picked off 17 times and being sacked on 17 occasions, resulting in a dismal 69.6 rating. Rookie Bryce Petty is not the QB of the future, either, with a 2:7, TD:INT ratio and 60.0 passer rating in six appearances. In a big, big market like New York, there is some accounting for the Jets horrible season and the only way to get the fans and media on-side is to make a splash. Not the ripple that has been rumored in the local papers about drafting national champion Clemson pivot Deshaun Watson, but the tidal wave of signing a starter like Tony Romo.
2. Los Angeles Rams
The NFL’s lowest scoring team, in one of the league’s biggest markets, needs better than Case Keenum and Jared Goff at quarterback. In their first full season back in La-la land — after the acrimonious split with the fans in St. Louis — the Rams went out an posted just 224 points during a 4-12 season. It also marked the 12th season the franchise has missed the playoffs. Put another way, the team has won three whole playoff games since Kurt Warner took to the team to the promised land in Super Bowl XXXIV 17 years ago. In order to keep the bums in the seats in the fickle Los Angeles market, Rams’ brass has to at least consider the possibility of signing, or trading for, an available Tony Romo. With the San Diego Chargers also confiring a move to Los Angeles, the clock is ticking on the Rams becoming great again before becoming irrelevant their own market.
1. Denver Broncos
A column in the Denver Post by Mark Kiszla said that Tony Romo could be the answer to the quarterbacking question in the Mile High City. We couldn’t agree more. Just a season removed from winning Super Bowl 50 on the arm of then 39-year-old Peyton Manning, the Broncos would do well to bring Romo into the fold. They have a superb defense, but are still stuck with the inexperienced play-calling of career back-up Trevor Siemian and rookie Paxton Lynch. Yes, the Broncs went 9-7, largely because the defense shone while Siemian and Lynch combined for 3,898 yards, 20 TDs and 11 interceptions. Not bad, but hardly the stuff of championship teams. Kiszla said GM John Elway is insistent upon bringing in a veteran QB for new coach Vance Joseph. And if Romo, who is high risk (injuries) but high reward (248 TD passes in 150 games, career rating of 97.1), is available it would be best that Elway put his money where his mouth is.