If the NFL playoffs showed us anything this year, it’s that having a franchise quarterback is typically the difference between being a good team and a Super Bowl-winning one. It’s no surprise Tom Brady, Matt Ryan, Ben Roethlisberger and Aaron Rodgers were the last four quarterbacks standing this year.
The desire to land an elite talent at the most important position in sports leads teams to make some shocking (and questionable) moves. The Redskins gave the Rams a boatload of picks to draft Robert Griffin III, while the Rams and Eagles made similar trades to score Jared Goff and Carson Wentz, respectively.
The Cowboys proved – as did the Patriots in 2000 when they lucked into Tom Brady – you don’t necessarily need to draft a quarterback in the first round to save your franchise. Sometimes, unforeseen situations present themselves, allowing you to land an elite quarterback without spending a single draft pick to make it happen.
That’s what’s likely to happen this offseason when Tony Romo ultimately becomes available. Dak Prescott is entrenched as the starter and the future of the Cowboys, leaving Romo as either the best (and most expensive) backup in the NFL, or the best quarterback to hit the free agent market since Peyton Manning in 2012.
The price to land Romo is what hasn’t yet been determined. Will it be a mid-round pick? Possibly. Will it be a pass rusher? Maybe. The most likely scenario, however, is that he’s outright released by Jerry Jones and the Cowboys. That presents a world of options for not just Romo, but for a number of teams around the NFL.
Romo’s impact won’t just be felt in the city where he lands. It’ll send shockwaves through the NFL, namely in terms of the 2017 NFL Draft.
Say Romo winds up in Denver with John Elway wooing him the way he did with Peyton a few years ago. The Broncos weren’t likely to spend a first-round pick on a quarterback anyways after doing exactly that on Paxton Lynch a year ago, but where does that leave Trevor Siemian? It’s conceivable the Broncos could trade him to a quarterback-needy team looking for a cheap option like the Jets or Bears – or dare I say, the Texans?
That would sway those teams away from spending their top pick on a quarterback – with the Jets and Bears both picking in the top six. In this hypothetical scenario, the Bills could wind up snagging one of the draft’s top quarterbacks as a result, with the same going for the Browns at No. 12.
But let’s consider another potential situation where Romo lands with the Bills. That would ultimately mean they’ve moved on from Tyrod Taylor, who will undoubtedly be a hot commodity on the free-agent market. The Browns have been rumored to be interested in his services, while the 49ers could also be in play for the dual-threat quarterback.
If the Browns were to land Taylor as a result of Romo going to Buffalo, it would rule out a quarterback at not only No. 1, but also with the 12th pick. This would allow them to land Myles Garrett and potentially Leonard Fournette or Dalvin Cook. Just with Garrett, Fournette and Taylor, the Browns would be significantly better – and that’s all without them making a dent in their surplus of cap space. This scenario would be infinitely better than Cleveland drafting Garrett and a rookie quarterback.
Romo, considering his competitiveness, health and desire to win a Super Bowl, will likely be looking for a team that’s a quarterback away from competing. Most wouldn’t consider the Bears or Jets as one of those teams, but they’re still potential landing spots for Romo.
The Jets in particular would be extremely interesting. Should they sign Romo and somehow fit him under the cap, a number of things would happen. They would likely have move on from either Bryce Petty or Christian Hackenberg – probably the former – opening up the possibility that one of them lands with a team in need of a quarterback.
Veterans like Brandon Marshall and Darrelle Revis could potentially become available to clear cap space. The same goes for Sheldon Richardson, who’s created problems in the locker room. The Jets would then be able to take the best available defensive player at No. 6, knowing the offense will be drastically improved thanks to Romo.
The same goes for the Bears if Romo were to choose them. The offense has talent in Jordan Howard, Kevin White and Alshon Jeffery – if he’s re-signed – leaving most of the attention to be put on the defense at No. 3 overall.
Regardless of where Romo winds up – whether it’s Denver, Buffalo, Houston, or one of the other aforementioned teams – the draft is going to shake out differently at the top. The main point of emphasis when discussing Romo’s future is the impact he’ll have on the team he joins, but his effect on the rest of the NFL – namely the draft – will be profound.