With the news that the Dallas Cowboys will officially release Tony Romo, the four-time Pro Bowl quarterback will become an unrestricted free agent just after 4 p.m. ET Thursday.
Many NFL clubs are in need of a quarterback, and presumed contenders seeking a veteran to lead their teams to the playoffs will find Romo extremely appealing. Ever since the emergence of Dak Prescott in Dallas, speculation has brewed as to which teams might be the best fit for Romo if and when the Cowboys either traded or released him.
So here we are. Romo is about to hit the open market and teams are going to line up for his services. Where might 2014’s highest-rated passer land? Here’s a full breakdown of the clubs most likely to be in pursuit.
1. Denver Broncos
It just makes too much sense. The Broncos already have a world-class defense and a solid receiving corps in place. Now all they need is a veteran quarterback who can do more good than harm. Five years ago, general manager John Elway brought in Peyton Manning, despite the fact Manning had injury issues and was 36. Denver then made the Super Bowl in two of the next four seasons. Romo is in literally the exact same boat, and won’t cost the Broncos as much now that they won’t have to trade for him.
The Broncos have over $36 million in salary cap space, so I don’t see any reason why this won’t happen.
2. San Francisco 49ers
It appears the 49ers would prefer chasing Kirk Cousins via the trade route, and they’ve already agreed to terms with veteran Brian Hoyer on a two-year contract. That being said, it won’t be easy to pry Cousins away from Washington and NFL Network’s Aditi Kinkhabwala reported on Wednesday that they view Hoyer as more of a “backup-type” quarterback.
That could keep Romo in play for a San Francisco front office which has like a trillion dollars to spend. But going that route would still be odd for a team that probably (or hopefully) realizes it is still years away from contending.
3. Houston Texans
On one hand, the Texans gave $37 million in guaranteed money to Brock Osweiler just one year ago. On the other, Osweiler sucks and with J.J. Watt healthy, the Texans are probably just a good quarterback away from being a Super Bowl contender.
Would general manager Rick Smith really be willing to give up on Osweiler so quickly? Would he bite the bullet on that guaranteed money and sign Romo anyway? It’s possible, because if you’re desperate enough to give a $72 million contract to a quarterback with seven career starts under his belt, you’re probably desperate enough to ditch said quarterback after a season in which he was the second-lowest rated qualified passer in the NFL.
Likelihood: Still far-fetched
4. Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings could be on the verge of losing offensive centerpiece Adrian Peterson. And more than six months after Teddy Bridgewater wrecked his knee in training camp, there’s apparently still no timeline for his return. The Vikings also have Sam Bradford, but Bradford had his best season as a pro in 2016 and that still wasn’t good enough to get Minnesota to the playoffs.
Minnesota has over $37 million in salary cap space, so they can certainly afford Romo. The defense is strong, so if GM Rick Spielman is under the false impression his team can contend with Romo under center (despite the fact they can’t unless they also make major upgrades to the offensive line and the running game, both of which were terrible in 2016), he might be silly enough to pay Romo.
Likelihood: Very unlikely
5. New York Jets
With Brandon Marshall, Nick Mangold and Darrelle Revis gone, the Jets are probably on track to undergo a rebuilding process, which makes signing a 36-year-old quarterback implausible. Still, when a team has just two quarterbacks on its roster and their names are Christian Hackenberg and Bryce Petty, you can’t rule anything out at that position.
Likelihood: I have a better chance with Kate Upton
6. Chicago Bears
It appears the Bears will soon have an opening at quarterback, which is why they’re listed here. But apparently, they’re interested in the much younger Mike Glennon, which makes sense only because they’re coming off a 3-13 season, they might lose top receiver Alshon Jeffery and they’re not about to become a contender.
Likelihood: I have a better chance with Kate Upton and Margot Robbie