The emergence of Dak Prescott as the Dallas Cowboys' starting quarterback has led to plenty of speculation about where Tony Romo will end up in 2017.
A report from CBS Sports during Super Bowl week said the Buffalo Bills will have "significant interest" in Romo, but adds "they realize that it might be a tough sell."
That's because there figures to be plenty of other suitors. On Thursday, ESPN published an article examining a dozen team's chances, including the Cowboys, of employing Romo in 2017.
12 teams. 1 quarterback. All the places he could go.
— ESPN (@espn) February 9, 2017
The Bills are one of nine teams listed as a "long shot." The Cowboys, Bears and Jets are considered "realistic" destinations.
"The Bills aren't likely to pick up Tyrod Taylor's option. Plus, new head coach Sean McDermott could switch things up on offense," the article states as reasons why the Bills could land Romo. "There's an argument to be made that the Bills are only a quarterback away from the playoffs, and Tony Romo could make this a win-win for both parties."
On the flip side, under the "why this couldn't" work, it says "with the Bills likely to part ways with the quarterback who elevated the offense, ranking ninth in Total QBR in 2016 and seventh in 2015, it's hard to imagine they would then go for Romo: an older quarterback with a history of injuries who hasn't played a full season since 2014."
Romo will be 37 at the start of 2017, and has played in just five games over the last two years because of injuries. There are legitimate concerns that the next big hit he takes could be his last. In his last full season, however, Romo completed 69.9 percent of his passes and threw 34 touchdowns, going 12-3 in 15 starts in 2014. Quarterbacks of his caliber rarely change teams.
The best-case scenario for the Cowboys would be to trade Romo. They would get an asset in return, while also limiting their salary-cap hit to $10.7 million this year. If Dallas were to release Romo before June 1, he would cost a whopping $19.6 million on this year's cap. The team could release Romo with a post-June 1 designation, which would give them a $10.7 million cap hit in 2017 and an $8.9 million hit in 2018.
Any team acquiring Romo in a trade would be on the hook for $14 million in 2017, then $19.5 million in 2018 and $20.5 million in 2019. None of those salaries are guaranteed, meaning Romo could be released without any salary-cap implications.
Romo would likely prefer to be released so that he could hand pick his next destination. He might not make quite as much money in that situation, but at this point in his career it's likely a realistic chance at winning a Super Bowl is higher on his list than the financial component. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is close with Romo, so it's entirely possible they could work together on a trade destination the quarterback finds desirable.
It's long been suggested that Denver would be an ideal match for Romo. The Broncos have a roster just two years removed from a Super Bowl title, and General Manager John Elway showed he can build around a veteran quarterback when he acquired Peyton Manning.
The Broncos, however, appear to be content with Paxton Lynch and Trevor Siemian competing for the starting job, which is why they're listed as a "long shot." It's worth noting that Elway could simply be playing possum.
Other teams listed as "long shots" include Cleveland, Houston, Kansas City, San Francisco, Washington, Arizona and Jacksonville.
There are significant roadblocks with each of these teams:
- Cleveland: The worst team in the NFL is in the beginning of a total rebuild and years away from playoff contention. Also, it's Cleveland.
- Denver: Mentioned above.
- Houston: The Texans basically have to keep Brock Osweiler on the roster in 2017 at a $19 million cap hit, because releasing him would bump that up to $25. It's hard to see how they would afford Romo, even if staying in Texas in an easy division would otherwise make this a desirable location.
- Kansas City: Chiefs General Manager John Dorsey said Thursday Alex Smith will be back as the team's starter in 2017.
- San Francisco: The 1-15 49ers are also in a total rebuild, and are easily one of the most dysfuctional franchises in sports.
- Washington: The expectation is that the Redskins work out a long-term contract with Kirk Cousins, although that is not a guarantee.
- Arizona: Carson Palmer announced Thursday he would be back, which takes the Cardinals off this list.
- Jacksonville: Blake Bortles is expected to be the starter in 2017, and even if he's not, the Jaguars would not seem to be a desirable destination.
As for the three teams ESPN lists as "realistic" possibilites, they also have plenty working against them.
- Dallas: If Romo does indeed want to be a starter, he's got to go elsewhere. There is also no way he stays in Dallas on his current contract.
- New York Jets: An aging roster that won just five games in 2016 will have to be rebuilt soon. There is also the issue of playing in the same division as Tom Brady.
- Chicago: A three-win team that plays in a competitive division doesn't look like a playoff contender, never mind the Super Bowl, even with Romo.
So what kind of chance to the Bills have? Only Romo can say for sure how appealing it would be to play in Buffalo. Certainly, playing against Brady twice a year is a negative. So, too, is a 17-year playoff drought. The national perception of the Bills' front office being a three-ring circus probably doesn't help, either.
But when comparing the situation here to the other teams listed by ESPN, it might not be such a long shot.
The Bills have a quality offensive line, Pro Bowl running back in LeSean McCoy and, when healthy, an explosive No. 1 receiver in Sammy Watkins. The No. 10 overall pick in the draft could be spent on an additional wide receiver.
While the Bills aren't exactly flush with cap space, they should be able to make it work. If they move on from Taylor, they'd free up $13 million in cap space. That would basically give them the $14 million needed to pay Romo for 2017 if they acquired him in a trade. If Romo is unable to stay healthy in 2017, the team could then cut him without any cap ramifications.