The ripple effects could be felt by several teams, including …
Houston Texans: Word out of Houston since the 2016 season ended has been that the organization feels more comfortable with Tom Savage at QB than most would expect. We’re about to find out if that was posturing or truth.
Because of their proximity to Dallas, strong defense and recent success within the AFC South, the Texans were believed to be the most likely candidates to land Romo, whether via trade or by signing him after his release. They obviously never reached a point where they were desperate enough to meet the Cowboys’ trade demands, but their next course of action will reveal how much they actually trust Savage.
Still out there in free agency are ex-Bears QB Jay Cutler and ex-49ers QB Colin Kaepernick, either of whom, on paper, could represent an upgrade over the inexperienced Savage. The trade options include Jimmy Garoppolo (who seems destined to remain a Patriot until at least 2018) and Cincinnati’s A.J. McCarron, although the latter would hardly be an obvious improvement on what Houston already has.
The Texans are a virtual lock to draft a quarterback—their current depth chart is just two-deep, consisting of Savage and journeyman Brandon Weeden. Whether or not that pick happens in Round 1 is the real question now. Houston sits at No. 25 in that opening round, behind a host of teams that could chase Deshaun Watson, DeShone Kizer, Patrick Mahomes or Mitchell Trubisky. It might take a massive leap up the board, say to around 10 or 11, for the Texans to get their QB of choice.
Denver Broncos: The Broncos always appeared to be on the fringes of the Romo discussion, mainly because they already have a Trevor Siemian–Paxton Lynch combo on their roster. Siemian was far from a world-beater as Peyton Manning’s replacement last season, but he did start 14 games for a Broncos team that was in playoff contention until late December. Another off-season’s worth of development could lead to better play from Siemian in 2017.
And Denver traded up in Round 1 last year to land Lynch, out of Memphis. He looked overwhelmed when pressed into the lineup for two starts, but the Broncos’ belief has been that he could grab the starting job eventually. When the Romo rumors were swirling, it was Siemian who stood as the potential odd man out, not Lynch.
So, the simplest solution for Denver now is to move forward with Siemian and Lynch again, then reassess come 2018 if need be.
The Broncos were linked to both Kaepernick and Robert Griffin III in the wake of Peyton Manning’s retirement last spring—Kaepernick stayed in San Francisco, while Griffin signed with Cleveland. GM John Elway recently told USA Today’s Tom Pelissero that Denver was “likely to go with someone who’s a better fit for their offense” than Kaepernick.
New York Jets: After signing Josh McCown to a free-agent deal, Jets GM Mike Maccagnan said it was “highly unlikely” the Jets would pursue any other veteran quarterbacks. That statement seemingly closed the door on the Cutler-to-New York connection that popped up after the Bears released their former QB.
But the Jets remain a wild card—perhaps more so for the draft than free agency or a trade, at this point—because McCown is merely a stopgap, and the jury remains very much out on Bryce Petty and 2016 draft pick Christian Hackenberg.
Romo’s retirement does not directly impact the Jets’ plans, but it could indirectly close the door on their ability to circle back on Cutler later this summer.
Cleveland Browns: Romo was never going to be a Brown, but the more teams that head into the draft needing quarterbacks, the trickier life becomes for Cleveland. In an ideal world for the Browns, they would be able to take Myles Garrett at No. 1, then still find the QB of their choosing at No. 12 or even 33.
The chances of that happening atop Round 2 are dwindling by the day. Ahead of Cleveland’s pick at No. 12, the 49ers, Bears, Jets and possibly even the Chargers or Saints could take a swing at QB, and now the Texans (pick 25) have joined the Chiefs (27) as obvious possible landing spots deeper into Round 1.
Odds are, the Browns were going to take a quarterback at 12, if they wanted to address the position. They almost have to do so now, or they risk missing out on all of the perceived top-tier options.