*(Editor's Note: As the NFL Draft approaches on April 25-27, DallasCowboys.com's Draft Series will analyze every position, the Cowboys' needs at each, which players might be targeted for their six picks and some interesting draft nuggets. Part 8 features quarterbacks.) *
Tony Romo threw 98 more passes last season than in any year prior, as the offense relied on its quarterback to get them down the field and into scoring position. The problem with that is it also amounted to Romo tying a career-high with 19 interceptions. The lack of a running game put a major emphasis on Romo and the passing game, and despite a breakout year for Dez Bryant, the burden was ultimately too great.
Even with the rough season finale and two games with at least four interceptions, Romo still had moments of dominance. In the offseason he was presented with a six-year, $108 million extension to stick around as the Cowboys' quarterback for the future. Now that finding a replacement at quarterback isn't a pressing issue, the Cowboys will focus their attention on figuring out how to maximize Romo's production.
The Cowboys have one of the better backups in the league in Kyle Orton and Romo's now locked up long term, so grabbing a veteran free agent seems unlikely at this point.
A few potential starters have switched teams this year, including Alex Smith, Matt Flynn and Kevin Kolb, but the stock of free agent quarterbacks remaining is rather limited. It's possible a team takes a chance on recently released quarterback Trent Edwards or former first-round picks Vince Young or JaMarcus Russell. Matt Leinart and Byron Leftwich are also free agents.
Romo's been the quarterback in Dallas since taking over for Drew Bledsoe in 2006. He's broken multiple records and has become the most dynamic threat at the position for the Cowboys since Troy Aikman stopped playing after the 2000 season. Romo broke his own team record for passing yards in a season last year with 4,903 and owns the highest career quarterback rating in team history.
While he continues to set records, he'll also continue to get scrutinized for the team's lack of a postseason presence. Romo sits second all-time in Cowboys history with 25,737 career passing yards, trailing only Aikman, but he'd probably trade any of those records to get a ring like the three-time Super Bowl champion.
The Cowboys could still select a quarterback in the draft, despite locking up Romo. They'll eventually need to find a replacement for their starter, who turned 33 years old yesterday, and this draft offers a few candidates that could go in the early rounds.
While the draft doesn't feature the same star power at quarterback as last year's draft, Bryan Broaddus analyzed some players that could still go off the board in the early or middle rounds, including Geno Smith, Matt Barkley and Tyler Wilson.