Tony Romo To Retire From Football

According to Adam Schefter and Todd Archer of ESPN, Tony Romo will retire from the NFL to pursue a career in broadcasting.

This will end at least the Cowboys part in months long speculation concerning Romo as they plan to release Romo from his contract according to Schefter. Prior to today’s news Dallas had been hoping to find a trade partner for Romo and just yesterday had given team’s permission to contact Romo about facilitating a trade. 

Romo was replaced last season by rookie Dak Prescott when Romo suffered an injury before the season began. Prescott had the best rookie season by a quarterback in quite some time and it he retained the job after Romo was healthy enough to return to the lineup. Romo did seem to indicate he still wanted to play football but he’s been hurt a lot the last few seasons and may have looked at the market and realized that the price he would receive was not worth the potential long term damage especially if he can land a job on television right off the bat, which might be harder if he is out of the limelight for another season.

As for why Dallas would release Romo rather than place him on the retired list probably has a bit to do with salary cap ramifications and doing the right thing by Romo. Remember a few years ago Cowboys backup Kyle Orton claimed he wanted to retire from the NFL and wanted his release from Dallas so they would forfeit the opportunity to collect on his bonus money. Eventually Dallas obliged and Orton would go on to sign with the Bills. It would be difficult for Dallas to hold Romo to his contract while having caved in to Orton. It would not only seem incredibly hypocritical but would make the organization look bad and damage a relationship with the Cowboys best quarterback since Troy Aikman.

While Romo stated that he is done with football, if a job does not materialize in broadcasting or if a very lucrative position pops up in the NFL due to injury, including with the Cowboys, the release option allows him to return to the NFL this season with no issues. He doesn’t need a team to work out a trade with Dallas, apply for reinstatement with the commissioner, or ask Dallas for his release to join what could be a rival team. It also makes coming back to Dallas, if Prescott was hurt, relatively easy as well. I believe there is a rule in the NFL about returning to the league in the same year as you retire and are placed on a reserve list and if that is the case the rule will not impact Romo here.

From a cap perspective there are two considerations for Dallas. One is that if they immediately placed him on the retired list his future bonus money of $8.9 million would all accelerate onto the cap. If Romo were to decide to return to play football Dallas would also need to reinstate his entire salary so that move would move Romo’s effective cap charge from the current $24.7 million to $33.6 million all in this year. That is not a salary cap charge that Dallas could handle without major maneuvering on their part and they would likely have to just release Romo anyway the minute he returned.

The second consideration is that there is no Post June 1 retirement designation so if Dallas wanted to release Romo today so all parties are happy they would be unable to spread his $19.6 million in dead money across two years- $10.7 million this year and $8.9 million in 2018- and would need to take it all in this year. For Dallas to operate this year without problem at this point they may be better off designating Romo a June 1 cut, which they can do if they choose by actually releasing him.

If Romo is released outright his cap charge of $19.6 million will immediately move Dallas to the top spot in terms of dead money in 2017 by about $4 million. Romo’s dead money charge is greater than the combined dead money charges for any individual team this season. His contract sunk far too much money into bonuses considering his age and other conditions. This fell back into his prior contract which forced Dallas’ hand to sign him to the current long term deal.

Through the years Dallas had turned to Romo for cap relief far too often with Romo receiving bonus money as part of a restructure for cap relief or as an extension in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015. From 2013 to 2015 Dallas paid Romo $53.5 million in prorated bonus money compared to just $3.5 in yearly base salaries to drive his yearly cap figures below $15 million.  That is the cause of the current excessive charges Dallas has to face on the cap. In that respect this was arguably one of the three most mishandled contracts in the NFL alongside the Ravens contract with Joe Flacco and the Saints contract with Drew Brees. Luckily for Dallas they picked to very talented players in last years draft and have worked out some very good contracts with some exceptional offensive linemen that has given them the flexibility to deal with this years release of Romo.