IRVING, Texas – It's a bit strange to consider how the Cowboys' quarterback situation is both settled and uncertain – somehow all at once.
Tony Romo is a 10-year starter and a Pro Bowl caliber player. His ailing back is about as healthy as it's been in two years, and he's fully recovered from offseason surgery on his collarbone. Romo will be the starting quarterback in 2016 – and the Cowboys hope that will continue for several more seasons.
At the same time, the franchise is coming off its worst season in 25 years largely as a result of Romo's injuries – two broken collarbones, to be exact. He has battled injuries in each of the last three seasons, and he's closer to the end of his career than the beginning.
The questions about the depth behind Romo – and the future after him – have been persistent all offseason, and they won't die down any time soon.
Here's how the quarterback situation stands with just one week until the 2016 NFL Draft:
What We Know: One day after his 36th birthday, we know that Tony Romo is healthy and participating in the Cowboys' offseason program. Having successfully recovered from surgery on his injured collarbone, he represents the Cowboys' best chance to be competitive, after his absence caused a catastrophic tailspin last fall. Three of the team's four wins last year came in games that Romo started, while the record was 1-11 without him. With Romo once again healthy in 2016, the expectations are far higher for the Cowboys than a typical team coming off a 4-12 campaign.
Still Need To Know: It's impossible for anyone to accurately predict what's in store for Romo's future – or how the Cowboys will address the depth chart behind him. The front office didn't add any quarterbacks in free agency, preferring to stick with Kellen Moore. Two mega-trades by the Rams and Eagles also guarantee that the top two quarterbacks in this year's draft class will be gone by the time the Cowboys pick at No. 4 in the 2016 NFL Draft next week. If the Cowboys plan to secure their long-term future at quarterback in this draft, they might be doing so with a lesser pick than initially thought. Team officials are clearly confident that Romo has several more years of quality play left in him, but they have also expressed their desire to insure themselves against the troubles that befell them last year when Romo was injured. What that insurance policy will be is still up for debate.
What We Know: The Boise State legend became something of a cult hero as the Cowboys descended in the standings last fall. A personal favorite of offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, Moore languished on the practice squad while Brandon Weeden and Matt Cassel failed to secure wins. With the season all-but-over and Cassel struggling on Dec. 19 against the New York Jets, Moore finally got his opportunity. He wasn't exactly spectacular, as he threw six picks in two-and-a-half games and failed to win a game. That said, he provided a spark that was seldom seen from Cowboys' backup quarterbacks. He averaged 260 yards per game, and he threw four touchdowns – which was just one fewer than Cassel threw in seven starts.
Still Need To Know: What exactly is the plan for Moore going forward? We know Linehan is a big fan of his ability. Since going undrafted out of Boise State, Moore has followed Linehan from Detroit to Dallas as a developmental quarterback. The Cowboys also decided against signing a free agent quarterback last month, which seemed like a big vote of confidence in Moore's abilities. For the time being, it certainly looks like Moore is going to have an opportunity to earn the backup job behind Romo. Even if the front office uses a big draft pick on a quarterback, Moore has to like his odds of beating out a newcomer.
What We Know: The rookie might have been the most versatile member of the entire roster last year, considering all the things the coaching staff asked him to do. Starting in training camp, the coaches began experimenting with Showers' athleticism. In addition to playing as the No. 4 quarterback on the team, Showers also worked on special teams. After signing on to the practice squad, he began working as a scout team quarterback – not to mention a scout team safety and a special teamer. With the playoffs out of reach, the Cowboys rewarded Showers with a promotion to the active roster in December.
Still Need To Know: Showers' 2015 season has to be considered a success for an undrafted rookie, but it's hard to project what the future holds in store. His presence on the roster isn't going to stop the front office from drafting a new quarterback to compete for playing time. If that's the case, then it will be hard for Showers to climb above both a high-profile rookie and Kellen Moore for considerable playing time. His athleticism and versatility will certainly help him find work, but it's hard to say if he'll have much of a shot at playing quarterback for the Cowboys.