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Spagnola: Call Me Crazy, But Keeping Romo Not Totally Far-Fetched

FRISCO, Texas– Certainly there are many of you out there thinking Cowboys owner Jerry Jones must be crazy saying he certainly hasn't ruled out the possibility of keeping quarterback Tony Romo.

         To quote: "I have not ruled out the possibility of him being with the Cowboys, not at all."

         Say what?

         You mean actually keeping Tony Romo as your backup quarterback to Dak Prescott instead of trading him for all that its worth?

         You mean not cutting him pre-June 1to gain that $5.1 million in cap space while absorbing a $19.6 million salary cap hit in dead money?

         You mean not designating him a June 1 release, and by doing so spreading that dead money over two seasons, $10.9 million this year and $8.7 million next year while gaining on June 2 another $14 million of cap space for your trouble?


         Well, call me crazy, too, call me a dreamer, accuse me of living in a world of Camelot, but last week here is what I was thinking, while questioning my sanity.

         What if none of the other 31 teams out there value Romo the way we all do?

What if no one wants to meet the Cowboys asking price in a trade?

What if teams are scared of trading for a quarterback who has played in all of five games over the past two years, finishing just two thanks to twice fracturing his collarbone and then suffering a compression fracture of the L1 vertebrae?

What if the usual suspects, like Houston and Denver and Kansas City, teams thinking they are on the cusp of heading to the Super Bowl, aren't as interested – financially or trade compensation – as everyone thinks they should be?

What if Tony is not interested in possibly playing for the Bills or the Jets or the Browns or the Bears?

What if the Cowboys just can't pull the trigger on releasing the franchise's all-time leading passer and stomach the $19.6 million they would eat this year in dead money?

What if the Cowboys realize they might have one of the greatest quarterback arrangements in franchise history, with Prescott starting and the soon to be 37-year-old Romo the best backup quarterback the Cowboys have ever had?

All that is going through the mind of Jerry Jones, too, and no matter who you might talk to out here at The Star, they all are demurring to Jones, that the final decision on whatever comes down with Romo is his. Not even son Stephen Jones wanted to touch this at the NFL Combine last week.

"I do not know what we'll end up with, whether it be a trade, whether it be a release or whether it would be a neither," Jerry Jones said, continuing to imply keeping Tony is a possibility in his mind. "I do not know at this time, and all scenarios have been well-considered and thought out, and we just now got to see where the reality is."

So maybe this day-dream is not totally far-fetched.

My guess is, since the two have previously talked over all the possibilities, the fact Jerry just might want to keep Tony Romo is not ground-breaking news to him. You can bet Jerry mentioned this to Tony, maybe casually.

So Tony, beware.

         We hear "sooner than later" you and Jerry will meet, to possibly hash this thing out if and when something needs hashing. And for the rest of us, let's remember the Cowboys don't have to do a thing come the 3 p.m., March 9 start to free agency. They already are under the salary cap, and Jerry basically scoffed at the idea the Cowboys would gain the $5.1 million in camp space by releasing Romo, as if that was but a pittance of a gain.

         "We have other ways to get the $5 million," Jerry says. "We can wait until that June 1 time to get cap credit with any plan we have."

         So Tony, if you are dead set against remaining with the Cowboys as a career backup, and there is a real good chance he is since we all deduced he wasn't keen on sitting behind Prescott last season after he was cleared to practice and play that Sunday prior to Thanksgiving, here is a good piece of advice for you:

         Don't go into a room with Jerry Jones by yourself with the door closed. Jerry might be the best salesman I've known, and after 14 years you probably know this too. Come on, you know what he did to Minnesota with that Herschel Walker trade. You realize he convinced the City of Arlington to partner with the team to build AT&T Stadium. Why he convinced the City of Frisco and the Frisco Independent School District to go all in helping to build The Star and Ford Center out here.

         I mean you've seen firsthand how convincing Jerry can be, and if you haven't, then just go to Canton, Ohio, in August and see his bust in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He sold his fellow owners, including a bunch of old-guard stuck-in-their-way dudes, to change the way the entire NFL conducts its business.

         He's mighty convincing. I mean, my gosh he convinced the owners to dump long-time TV partner CBC to lock arms with up-and-coming Fox Network.

         Jerry probably could sell his way out of a paper bag.

         You might need to take a lesson from Randy White, who recently told us the story of his holdout prior to the 1984 season. His agent, Howard Slusher, told him he was a chicken, that Randy didn't have the nerve to do what he needed to do: Just hold out until then President Tex Schramm gave them what they were asking for.

Slusher told Randy to get the heck out of town, don't report to training camp and don't you dare talk to Tex without him present. Slusher knew Tex, and like Jerry, had a way about him getting his way. Randy did as told. He held out for nearly a month. Went fishing. Virtually no one could find him. And in the end they got their deal.

         So as Jerry pointed out over the weekend, there are a lot of variables in the works here. But the Cowboys can't control what another team might offer for Romo's services. Chances are the trade would have to be for a conditional draft choice or choices, the conditions being the likes of how many games Romo starts, how many games the team wins, if the team gets into the playoffs, if Romo plays to a Pro Bowl level, and so on.

         But if I'm the Cowboys, I'm not just giving Romo away. In a league so quarterback desperate, why in the world would I do that, why would I just release him? For what, $5.1 million in cap space, like 3 percent of the salary cap? Not sure if this is coming from an agent or not – OK, I'm pretty sure – but reports out there have Tampa Bay quarterback Mike Glennon possibly signing for a contract averaging $15 million a year.[embeddedad0]

         Say what?

         Plus, if the Cowboys part ways with Romo, now they must go find a backup. Now Jerry and Stephen made it sound as if they will bring Kellen Moore back. But then what? Is it Kellen More and a veteran? Is it Kellen Moore and a rookie to be groomed as the eventual backup?

         Or, might it be Kellen Moore and Tony Romo?

         Now look, this whole crazy brainstorm is dependent on one thing:

         Romo has to buy in. Totally. He has to accept he's not competing for the starting job, because that just doesn't work. Never really has for the Cowboys. Quarterback competition usually means you don't have a starter. But in this case, the Cowboys would have two starters, and if the competition is on a level playing field, that simply creates factions on the team. And as Bill Parcells was wont to say, you don't want a bunch of guys kibitzing in corners. Happened with Roger Staubach and Craig Morton. Happened with Danny White and Gary Hogeboom. Happened with Quincy Carter and Chad Hutchinson.

         Just never turns out well.

         Here is another thought: Why rush into this decision?

What if the Cowboys sit tight if nothing ideal shows up, just hold onto Romo and see if another team runs into an injury bind, their starter gets hurt during preseason? Never know what a desperate team might give you for Romo at that point. (See Sam Bradford)

         And if not, the Cowboys would have the best one-two punch at quarterback in the league. What would be wrong with that?

Plus, do you realize how fortunate the Cowboys ended up being last year? Not only did Dak not miss a game, he did not miss a snap of consequence. Mark Sanchez played in just two games. Mopped up against Cleveland and came in the in consequential season finale after Dak played some and Romo played one series. That was it.

         What are the chances of that happening again?

         So, like I said, this notion of keeping Tony Romo for the betterment of the Cowboys is somewhat of a fantasy. The Cowboys simply can't – and won't – keep Romo against his will. But then what are the chances, as Jerry has said, this "mutually acceptable" deal turns up, even if either party has to give a little to meet that common ground?

         Too bad this isn't the Camelot of the NFL, because as the song goes,

 In short, there's simply not a more congenial spot for happily-ever-aftering than here in Camelot.

         Does Tony stay or does he go? And if he goes, how does he go? And where?

         "There is nothing I would rule out or dismiss as not being a possibility because of just the way we got here," Jerry Jones says.

         Exactly, and that includes keeping Tony Romo.

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