IRVING, Texas – Emmitt Smith admits he's not following every free agent move closely, but he does hold a specific belief on Tony Romo's current contract situation.
After speaking at his tour of the renovations at the new Youth Education Town in Arlington, Smith turned his attention to the Cowboys quarterback. He said Romo doesn't owe any hometown discount unless he's assured the line in front of him is patched up.
"I think Tony has to look at it from the perspective of, 'What is that money going to go toward? Is it going to go toward me having a mediocre front line in front of me and getting knocked on my back all the time, or is it going to go toward getting an upgrade so we can become a better team?" Smith said. "Those are things that he has to look at, and I understand that, because the kid's been running for his dear life for the last three years."
After throwing a career-low seven interceptions in 2010, Romo threw 10 in 2011 and tied a career-high with 19 last season. Many of those picks came as a result of pressure or dropped passes. He was able to avoid the rush, usually, but Romo was still sacked 36 times.
"He can't drop back like Peyton Manning or Tom Brady and sit back there and have a sandwich and some chips and a drink before he throws the football," Smith said. "He's dropping back to scramble, because he knows that offensive line is not going to hold up that long, so the question becomes, truly, is the money going toward an upgrade? If the money's going toward an upgrade, I'm sure he'll be willing to work with Mr. (Jerry) Jones."
While Smith hasn't kept up much with free agency, he can still see players are moving all across the country to go to new teams. That wasn't typically the case when he was playing, and it puts Jones and owners across the league in a difficult situation.
"I think it's awesome to be loyal, to be honest," Smith said. "We complain oftentimes about how players aren't loyal. You complain about the NBA and how players aren't loyal to their teams and how fans have got to learn a new roster every year, you complain about it. But then when the owner wants to be loyal to his players, you want to criticize him. You can't have it both ways.
"The man is stuck between a rock and a hard place. If he's not loyal to a guy like myself or Romo or whoever, you're mad. If you're too loyal, you're still mad. The man is in a no-win situation. He's doing the best he can."
Smith spent 13 seasons, including all 11 of his 1,000-yard seasons, with the Cowboys before joining the Cardinals for his final two NFL seasons. He's surprised the Cowboys are still searching for their first Super Bowl victory since he was with the team in 1995.
"I didn't think it was going to take this long," Smith said. "I thought we was real close in 2007 and 2008. Real close. I thought we was going to be there, turn the [embedded_ad] corner right then and there and probably competing in the NFC Championship Game at some point between that timeframe and now, but I never thought that it would take this long."
The Cowboys did what they could prior to free agency this offseason to turn the tide and become a playoff contender by bringing in a new defensive coordinator and defensive line coach, among others. Along with that switch is a change to the 4-3 defense utilized during Smith's days.
"I'm sure that personnel itself is going to have to adjust," Smith said. "I can't imagine seeing DeMarcus Ware playing tackle. I can't imagine seeing DeMarcus Ware playing defensive end. It's kind of hard because his body structure, I just don't see it. But it's just going to be an adjustment. But he's a quality player. He could probably play linebacker, too. At the end of the day, we're going to see if he's going to be a standup guy or if he's going to be a hands-on-the-ground kind of guy."