INDIANAPOLIS — The final two press conferences at the combine Wednesday, conducted simultaneously, belonged to Denver GM John Elway and Dallas coach Jason Garrett. But before they took to their respective podiums, Elway and Garrett shared a brief conversation. Reporters sprinted over, as if the two might complete a trade for Tony Romo, right there in front of everyone.
They didn’t, of course, but the Broncos may still be the odds-on favorite to land the veteran QB, whenever the Cowboys get around to trading or releasing him.
“Tony’s been a great football player for us,” Garrett said, “for a number of years said. …We’ll see how the situation plays out over the next few weeks.”
That timeframe is rather open-ended. Romo figures to remain on the Cowboys’ roster until at least March 9, when the new league year begins (and free agency opens). He cannot be traded officially until the NFL’s calendar flips over, should Dallas go that route. If a release is the preferred method, waiting until the 9th, then designating Romo as a post-June 1 cut would allow the Cowboys to split his $19.6 million dead-money cap hit over the 2017 and ’18 seasons.
The teams interested in Romo should have an idea for the Cowboys’ plans before that March 9 date, though, and a trade could be wrapped in principle before then.
Enter the Broncos. A year after winning the Super Bowl with Peyton Manning and Brock Osweiler splitting QB duties, Denver missed out on the postseason behind first-time starter Trevor Siemian and rookie Paxton Lynch.
Romo comes with considerable injury risk—he has played just five games combined the past two seasons, and this past year’s appearance was a Week 17 mop-up job. He also would stand as an obvious upgrade for the Broncos, who remain very much in win-now mode.
“I think that we’ve got two young [quarterbacks] that we’re happy with, that we think can be very good football players in this league,” Elway said. “So, I think when you start talking about another veteran quarterback, you don’t just talk about next year—everybody thinks we just talk about next year, but we don’t. We talk about the impact that has two, three, for years down the line, and how does that affect us now. Once we get through all of those scenarios, [we’ll] make a decision and see what happens.
“When you make a decision, whether it be a quarterback or an offensive lineman or whatever it is, especially in free agency, you talk about what’s that going to do two or three years down the line.”
If the Broncos play the waiting game in hopes of a Romo release, they would run the risk of being usurp in the Romo sweepstakes by another QB-needy team (Houston? Kansas City? The Jets?). If that possibility has Elway scrambling, he’s playing it close to the vest.
“We’re open to anything,” Elway said. “This is the time of year that you look at everything, discuss everything, every possibility, what might be available, what might not be available, and talk about that and see how it affects us.”
The only near-certainty as of March 1 is that Romo has played final game for the Cowboys. Romo, who turns 37 in April, lost his job to Dak Prescott last season and won’t be getting it back.
Romo’s contract is among the biggest obstacles moving forward. The Cowboys will be on the hook for that $19.6 million total, regardless of whether they trade him or release him. If a team acquires Romo via trade, it would have to rework a contract that owes him $54 million in base salary through the 2019 season.
”[Romo] will have some conversations with Jerry Jones and they’ll work through what that specific situation is,” Garrett said, ”with regards to what we think is best for the Dallas Cowboys, what’s best for Tony Romo, there’s a lot of different factors involved.”
Garrett says it could be a “few weeks” before a resolution comes. More likely, a move will be made involving Romo before March 9. It just didn’t happen Wednesday, no matter how perfect the timing would have been.