Several sources reported yesterday that Tony Romo threw about 15-20 passes during the Cowboys pregame warmups in Washington. It naturally leads to speculation about when the starting quarterback will return to active duty.
Dallas chose not to put Romo on Injured Reserve because they felt he may be able to return sooner than Week 9, which is the earliest he could've come back from IR. At the time of his injury, returning as soon as Weeks 3-4 was an extremely optimistic projection but not impossible.
Romo's return is not as simple as when he's healed enough to be able to play. There are many factors to consider, but primary are the performance of Dak Prescott, the team's record and ability to contend, and the salary cap.
The Dak Factor
In 2006, Tony Romo replaced a struggling Drew Bledsoe and never looked back. Five years earlier, Bledsoe had lost his job in New England when Tom Brady famously took over due to an injury.
There is an obvious poetry to Romo facing the same situation now that Bledsoe did. Since Week One of the preseason, Dak Prescott has been wowing fans and analysts alike and generating excitement that we haven't seen in some time.
Even Stephen Jones, a key figure in the Cowboys front office, has drawn a comparison between the Bledsoe-Brady situation and what we have now with Romo and Prescott. That was before we saw Prescott carry his poise and performance over to the regular season.
In two games, Prescott has completed 47 of 75 passes (62.7%) for 519 yards. He has yet throw a touchdown but did one run one in against Washington. Despite the lack of scoring, Prescott has a solid 83.1 passer rating thanks largely to having no turnovers.
Prescott's strengths aren't seen in the box scores but on film. He has avoided pressure and delivered the ball with accuracy when on the move. He has shown a fantastic balance of knowing when to stick to the play and when to improvise. In Washington he led the team on several long drives and executed well on many third-down plays.
Helping Tony Romo's case for keeping his job are some consistent struggles in the redzone. Prescott's newness to the offense is clear in those situations; a lack of chemistry with Dez Bryant and Jason Witten that Romo would certainly offer. Assuming Romo is able to move the offense with the same efficiency as Prescott, he will likely improve things closer to the goal line.
At this point Prescott has been very good and even great in moments, but the production isn't there to say he's claimed the job away from Romo. However, with a least few more weeks to go before Romo can play, the Dak Factor is still in flux.
Team Record & Competitiveness
The Cowboys have gone 1-1 under Dak Prescott. Where their record is once Tony Romo is healthy has a major factor in deciding on his return.
Let's say that Dallas stays right around .500 until Romo's ready. They would be the "sweet spot" for Tony to come back, ideally improving the offense enough to increase scoring and help overcome the defensive issues.
If the Cowboys suddenly reel off a bunch of wins, it will come down to just analyzing Prescott's role in the success. Did he figure out the redzone problems? Is he producing to the same degree that Romo? Even if not quite as potent through the air, is Prescott's running ability offsetting that?
Momentum is a valuable thing and Dallas won't toss it aside lightly. However, on the other end of the spectrum is a question we can't help but consider.
What if the Cowboys' win in Washington was their last one?
Washington is clearly not a very good team right now. Dallas could find that their next several opponents (Bears, 49ers, Bengals, Packers, Eagles) are tougher and end up at 1-6.
At what point does a team say "we're done" and start thinking about next season? When do risking Tony Romo's long-term health and costing Dak Prescott valuable game time make less sense than surrendering?
Obviously, a huge factor here is when Tony will actually be ready to play. If it's in just 2-3 weeks, there really isn't much room for the team to go one way or the other.
Salary Cap Concerns
Other than his own health issues, this may be Tony Romo's greatest enemy. Consider the following points:
Romo's contract is not prohibitive as of 2017. They could create $5.1 million in cap space if they cut him outright or $14 million if he's a June 1st release. These same factors would apply if Romo retires or if he's traded.
- The Cowboys need cash to keep their offensive line together. Zack Martin and La'el Collins will both be on expiring contracts next season, though they could use a team option on Martin for 2018.
- Dallas' defense is clearly still a problem and could need plenty of cash invested to make it competitive.
- We have a recent example in the Seattle Seahawks of how a championship team can be built when a star quarterback is playing on a rookie salary. The Cowboys certainly were paying attention.
These cap concerns do help Dak Prescott's case to remain the starter. If Dallas can make a smooth transition at quarterback while also freeing up funds to retain other assets and make upgrades, it could propel them towards annual contender status. Not only would they get cash now to work with, but more as the dead money from Romo's deal drops off the books.
~ ~ ~
There is only one absolute that could exist in this discussion, and that's if Jason Garrett and Jerry Jones believe that Tony Romo deserves to play no matter the circumstances. We know how close Jason and Tony are and how much loyalty and love Jerry has for his players. Those may override any other factors.
If the Cowboys are thinking with their heads over hearts, though, then they will have plenty to consider. As much as we all love Tony Romo, he can't be put above the welfare of the organization.
Only time will tell if Romo's return is something to be celebrated, or a problem to be solved.
BREAKING: Dallas Cowboys Sign Free Agent Safety George Iloka
The Dallas Cowboys have reached a one-year agreement with Safety George Iloka, according to ESPN's Todd Archer. Iloka spent 2018 with the Vikings after six years with the Bengals.
He's started 79 of his 99 career games since being a fifth-round pick by Cincinnati in 2012. Iloka turns 29 years old next week.
The Cowboys have agreed to a one-year deal with safety George Iloka, according to a source. Iloka met with the Cowboys on Friday and was the third safety to meet with the club during the week along with Clayton Geathers and Eric Berry. The Cowboys have... https://t.co/JB5nJLWepc
This isn't the safety that most Cowboys fans wanted. After over a year of pining for Earl Thomas, sights turned to Eric Berry after his free agent visit in Dallas last week.
However, it makes sense that Iloka would be attractive to the Cowboys. At 6'4" and 225 lbs, he fits the physical mold of what Defensive Backs Coach Kris Richard likes in his players. He also is younger than Berry and Thomas without the same recent injury issues.
Iloka becomes one of many Boise St. products on Dallas' roster, joining Tyrone Crawford, DeMarcus Lawrence, Leighton Vander Esch, and others. He entered the league with college teammates Crawford and Kellen Moore, the Cowboys' new offensive coordinator, in 2012.
We'll have to wait and see how George Iloka fits into the current mix at safety with Jeff Heath and Xavier Woods. He spent most of 2018 as a backup with Minnesota, but Dallas will likely give him a chance to start.
BREAKING: Cowboys Sign Ex-Packers WR Randall Cobb
According to multiple sources, the Dallas Cowboys have signed former Green Bay Packers Wide Receiver Randall Cobb to a one-year deal to help bolster their depth at the WR position and potentially become Cole Beasley's replacement.
Cowboys are giving former Packers' WR Randall Cobb a one-year, $5 million deal, per source. https://t.co/8KWFPjSP8T
The Dallas Cowboys met with Randall Cobb earlier this week, but he eventually left Dallas without a contract. He must've had a change of heart or just needed time to ponder the Cowboys offer, but regardless of what transpired in that short time he is now part of America's Team.
During his time with the Packers, Cobb accumulated 470 receptions for 5,524 receiving yards and 41 touchdowns. The eight-year veteran will now be expected to replace some of Cole Beasley's production out of the slot for the Dallas Cowboys.
After years of watching Beasley as the Cowboys slot WR, it will be really interesting to see Randall Cobb in that role. He's not as quick twitched as No. 11, but can be just as dangerous due to his ability to be more of a down the field receiver. He also brings added value in the return game and could compete with Tavon Austin to become the return specialist.
This could mean the Cowboys forgo drafting a wide receiver early in the 2019 NFL Draft, but I wouldn't put it past them. Regardless of what happens, this is an excellent addition.
Welcome to Cowboys Nation Randall Cobb!
REPORT: Dallas Cowboys Re-sign Long Snapper L.P. Ladouceur
L.P. Ladouceur is returning for his 15th season as the Cowboys' long snapper. The veteran free agent was re-signed by Dalals today to a one-year deal.
Thanks to Jason Witten's one-year sabbatical with Monday Night Football, Ladouceur has now been with the Cowboys for more consecutive seasons than any current player. He just turned 38 last week, but Louis-Philippe remains one of the top long snappers in football.
The Cowboys have signed long-snapper L.P. Ladouceur to a one-year deal worth $1.03 million and $90,000 in bonus money, but he will count $735,000 against the cap. This will be Ladouceur's 15th season with the Cowboys, tying Ed "Too Tall" Jones, Mark... https://t.co/2iDsi6RX7e
Retaining Ladouceur is an underrated move for the Cowboys given their situation at kicker.
Brett Maher was only 80% accurate overall on field goals last year. The team could be considering an upgrade in free agency.
Whether they bring Maher back or try someone new, having a long snapper with Ladouceur's performance perfection will make things much easier for them.
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