Cowboys announce release of Tony Romo, who joins CBS Sports for 2017 season

One of the biggest offseason questions has finally been answered: After 14 seasons in Dallas, and with speculation looming that quarterback Tony Romo would be traded or released to continue his NFL career, the quarterback will instead join CBS Sports as its lead NFL game analyst beginning with the 2017-2018 NFL season, the network announced Tuesday .

The Cowboys also announced that Romo had officially been released.

“We wish Tony and his family nothing but the best,” said Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones, via the team’s official website. “As an organization, we did what he asked us to do in terms of his release, and we wanted to do what was ultimately in his best interest and in the best interest of his family.”

As recently as nine months ago, the expectation was that a healthy Romo would be the beneficiary of the league’s best offensive line and some of its best skill-position players in Dez Bryant, Jason Witten and rookie Ezekiel Elliott. A preseason back injury changed all that -- and the trajectory of Romo’s NFL career. He spent the season watching Dak Prescott go from fourth-round afterthought to the face of the franchise, leading Dallas to 13 wins, the NFC East title and the playoffs.

Meanwhile, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported early Tuesday morning that Romo’s decision to retire was based in part in valuing health and family just a few weeks before his 37th birthday. He took several weeks to reach this conclusion, and Romo has already informed Jones, who said from the owners meetings last week  that the deadline for trading Romo was training camp. That point is now moot.

In the weeks and months since the Romo Hype Train began gaining steam, the thinking was that the four-time Pro Bowl selection would follow the path blazed by Peyton Manning five years ago, when he was released by the Colts, signed with the Broncos  and eventually led that team to a Lombardi Trophy. With Manning retired and youth and inexperience at the position, the Broncos were thought to be in the running for Romo, as were the Texans, a team that could only endure one year of the Brock Osweiler Experiment before shipping him and a second-round pick to the Browns.

But the start of free agency came and went, and Romo remained on the Cowboys with no sign of progress in sight. He reportedly took Jones’ perceived foot-dragging personally, though Jones denies this. Either way, it’s Jones’ words from early March, when he was discussing that he and Romo had an understanding that the quarterback would not sign with the rival Redskins, that have proved most prophetic , even if accidentally so.
“What I’m really saying is that I do not know how, what we will end up with -- whether it will be a trade, whether it will be a release, whether it will be neither,” Jones said at the time. “I do not know at this time. All scenarios have been well-considered and thought out. Now we’ve just got to see where the reality is.”
For Dallas, that reality lies with Prescott. For Romo, it’s with his family.

And while Romo is gone, Jones -- one of Romo’s biggest supporters -- won’t soon forget what he did for the organization.

“I feel so fortunate to be where we are as a team and have the team and have Dak,” Jones said last month. “I feel very fortunate. But a lot of what this team is about, I thought that on a personal basis Tony would have been the benefactor. When I look at our relationship, for all the right reasons it was to win and win big, win a Super Bowl. We might not have the decisions we made in the offensive line had we not been so focused in on protecting Tony, and then having the running game.”

Of course, never say never. Even though he won’t be on an NFL roster, Romo will remain one of the league’s best players. Which, technically, means that he’s just a phone call away...

In his new job, Romo will join Jim Nantz and Tracy Wolfson on the lead announce team for the network’s coverage of “The NFL on CBS.”

“When you think about the NFL, two of the most iconic brands are the Dallas Cowboys and CBS Sports,”  Romo said, via a statement released by CBS. “Going from one legendary team to another as I begin the next phase of my career is a dream come true. I have always known that once my playing career was over I wanted to become a broadcaster. I am ecstatic for the opportunity to work with Jim as I learn the craft and convey to fans my passion for this great game.”


Tony Romo heading into broadcasting with CBS

The Dallas Cowboys have officially released quarterback Tony Romo, who will become the lead NFL analyst for CBS, it was announced Tuesday.

"It was a very difficult decision. I went back and forth a number of times," Romo said on a conference call.

Romo said the Houston Texans were at the top of his wish list if he kept playing, but the CBS offer was too good to pass up.

"It really had nothing to do with the Texans and everything to do with CBS," Romo said. "I felt like it was the right decision. My wife would tell you we've had a lot of late nights. It was nice to have some clarity."

"Going from one legendary team to another as I begin the next phase of my career is a dream come true," Romo said in a statement. "I have always known that once my playing career was over I wanted to become a broadcaster. I am ecstatic for the opportunity to work with Jim as I learn the craft and convey to fans my passion for this great game."

Romo said on the conference call that he expects his new broadcasting job to be difficult, but "I've got to attack this just like football."

The Cowboys' move to make Romo a post-June 1 release designation softens the blow against the salary cap this season. Instead of counting $24.7 million against the cap in 2017, Romo would count $10.7 million this year and $8.9 million in 2018. The Cowboys would gain $14 million in cap space this season, but it would not become available until June 2. The Cowboys will carry $19.6 million in dead money for the 2017 season, $8.9 million in 2018 and $3.2 million in 2019.

Romo's decision came down to his health, sources close to the situation told ESPN. Romo, who turns 37 on April 21, believes his family and his health are paramount. He was limited to playing in parts of just five games over the past two seasons because of collarbone and back injuries, and he suffered a compression fracture in his back in August that led the way to Dak Prescott's emergence.

Prescott posted his thanks to Romo on Instagram.

Romo now will get to spend more time with his family while retaining a strong connection to the game.

As the network's No. 1 color commentator for the NFL, Romo will work with Nantz on Sunday afternoon and Thursday evening games. He also will be in line to work CBS' coverage of Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta in February 2019.

Romo -- a scratch golfer -- also could wind up working on CBS' golf coverage down the line, sources told ESPN, but he first wants to focus on football.

"Tony has been one of the NFL's biggest stars for the past decade, and we are thrilled to welcome him to CBS Sports," CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus said in a statement. "He will bring the same passion, enthusiasm and knowledge that he displayed on the field to the broadcast booth. He brings a fresh and insightful perspective to our viewers having just stepped off the field. We know Tony will quickly develop into a terrific analyst, and alongside Jim Nantz, will become a must-listen for fans each week."

CBS said it was discussing future options for Simms, who served nearly 20 years as the network's lead NFL analyst.

Romo stepping away from the game affects numerous NFL teams since the market for Romo was expected to be robust. Romo no longer will be a consideration for the Texans and Denver Broncos -- unless he were to unexpectedly return from the broadcast booth to the playing field.

However, a source directly involved told ESPN's Ed Werder, "He's done. It's over. This was a no-brainer."

Without Romo, the Cowboys' all-time leader in passing yards and touchdowns, Tom Savage now is expected to be Houston's starting quarterback, with former Cowboys quarterback Brandon Weeden serving as his backup.

In Denver, Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch will compete for the Broncos' starting quarterback job.

Romo's transition to TV will finish off one of the great undrafted free-agent stories in NFL history.

In 2003, Romo bypassed a larger signing bonus from the Broncos to join the Cowboys out of Eastern Illinois. He did not throw a pass in a regular-season game during his first three seasons, but coach Bill Parcells turned to him in the sixth game of the 2006 season at halftime against the New York Giants.

Romo then sparked the Cowboys to a playoff berth and held the starting job through last August.

In his first full season as the starter in 2007, Romo threw for a then-franchise-record 4,211 yards -- a mark he would surpass twice more -- and a franchise-record 36 touchdown passes. The Cowboys finished with the best record in the NFC (13-3) but lost in the divisional round of the playoffs.

Romo has a career record of 78-49 but never was able to get the Cowboys past the divisional round in four playoff appearances. His 34,183 passing yards and 248 touchdown passes are the most in team history.

Romo also holds team records for 300-yard passing games (46), games with multiple touchdown passes (79) and consecutive games with a touchdown pass (38). In 2012, he threw for a club-record 4,903 yards, and on Oct. 6, 2013, against the Broncos, he threw for a franchise record 506 yards. He has the NFL record with a touchdown pass in 41 straight road games.

"Tony Romo has a unique combination of athletic ability, arm talent, vision, and instincts for the game," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said in a statement. "What separates Tony from many other players, however, is a rare competitive spirit. Tony loves to play. Tony loves to compete. The best ones always do. In practice. During games. On the field. Off the field. Tony competes to the end in everything that he does. That relentless spirit that Tony plays with is contagious. He makes his teammates better. He makes his coaches better. He makes his team better."

In 2013, back injuries started to slow Romo. He had two back surgeries, including a discectomy before the season finale. He suffered two transverse process fractures in 2014 but missed just one game in leading the Cowboys to a 12-4 record and NFC East title. In 2015, he suffered a broken left collarbone against the Philadelphia Eagles and missed seven games. He broke the collarbone again in his second game back and missed the final five games as the Cowboys went 1-11 without him.

After undergoing collarbone surgery last spring, Romo said his back felt as strong as it had in years. However, on the third play from scrimmage in a preseason game against Seattle, he was awkwardly driven to the turf by Cliff Avril and suffered the compression fracture in his back.

Romo's absence allowed Prescott, the Cowboys' second fourth-round pick last year, to ascend to the starting job. After losing the season opener, the Cowboys won a franchise-record 11 straight games. Prescott finished his rookie season with 23 touchdown passes and just four interceptions and was named the NFL's Offensive Rookie of the Year.

Disappointed he would not have the chance to win the job back, Romo defused any controversy with a heartfelt statement backing Prescott upon his return. He served as the backup for the first time since 2006 and saw action in just one game, throwing a touchdown pass on his lone drive in the 2016 finale against the Eagles.

"He has grown so much as a player and as a person over the course of his career and has made a significant impact on the lives of so many," Garrett said. "I consider myself fortunate to be at the top of that list. It has been one of the great privileges of my life to work with Tony Romo, one of the greatest players in Dallas Cowboys history."

Dallas Cowboys QB Tony Romo retiring from NFL

Tony Romo has chosen retirement.

Despite interest from at least one playoff-ready NFL team, the Dallas Cowboys legend and four-time Pro Bowler retired from playing on Tuesday and was officially released by the team.

Romo will work for CBS this season as an analyst alongside Jim Nantz on game broadcasts, the network confirmed Tuesday. He replaces Phil Simms as the lead game broadcast analyst for CBS.

"I'm really excited about the challenge ahead," Romo said in a conference call. "I'm excited. It's going to be a great challenge for me ... I hope that I'm able to make the CBS family proud with their decision."

Romo's retirement after 14 NFL seasons was first reported by ESPN.

In releasing Romo, the Cowboys are relinquishing their rights to the quarterback by not placing him on the reserve/retired list.

"We wish Tony and his family nothing but the best," Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said in a statement. "As an organization, we did what he asked us to do in terms of his release, and we wanted to do what was ultimately in his best interest and in the best interest of his family.

"Tony has been a wonderful representative of the Cowboys organization for 14 years, and he left everything he had on the field," Jones continued. "He will leave us with many great memories and a legacy of being, truly, one of the greatest players in Cowboys history. We are thrilled for him and his family that he will be able to continue working as a professional in the game he so dearly loves."

Cowboys coach Jason Garrett echoed Jones' sentiments, complementing Romo for competing "to the end in everything that he does."

"That relentless spirit that Tony plays with is contagious," Garrett said in a statement. "He makes his teammates better. He makes his coaches better. He makes his team better. He has grown so much as a player and as a person over the course of his career and has made a significant impact on the lives of so many. I consider myself fortunate to be at the top of that list. It has been one of the great privileges of my life to work with Tony Romo, one of the greatest players in Dallas Cowboys history."

Romo's decision comes amid a tumultuous period in his career both emotionally and health-wise. Romo, 36, appeared in just five games over the past two seasons due to a twice-broken collarbone and broken back. In both cases, he still managed to claw his way onto the field for at least one appearance. Rapoport reported that injury concerns -- specifically the durability of his back -- were a factor in Romo's choice to step away.

This time, however, the Cowboys had rookie star Dak Prescott firmly entrenched in his old job. Prescott had this message on his Instagram Tuesday: "From a Fan Of Yours to Being Your Teammate: THANK YOU for The Advice On & Off the Field to Making Plays that I'll Never Forget!"

During a news conference in November, Romo essentially surrendered the gig that he had held on a regular basis since 2006, he foreshadowed a comeback season elsewhere. He talked about his desire to play football at a high level again.

"If you think for a second that I don't want to be out there, than you've probably never felt the ecstasy of competing and winning," Romo said. "That hasn't left me. In fact, it may burn more now than ever. It's not always easy to watch and I think anyone who has been in this position understands that."

That took a back seat to health concerns. The affable and well-spoken Romo, however, is an obvious choice as the next great player-analyst.

Unfortunately, it robs fans a chance to see his last ride even though NFL Network's Jane Slater reported Tuesday morning that Romo would consider coming back if the Cowboys ever really needed him. Romo was absolutely under-appreciated. A former undrafted free agent out of Eastern Illinois, he caught the eye of then Cowboys assistant head coach and fellow EIU Panther Sean Payton. For two seasons, Romo held kicks and backed up a carousel of high-upside projects like Drew Henson and established veterans like the 41-year-old Vinny Testaverde in 2004 and the 33-year-old Drew Bledsoe in 2005.

Hardened under Bill Parcells, Romo got his chance in 2006. Romo completed 66 percent of his passes for 270 yards, a touchdown and an interception in his first NFL start -- a 35-14 win over the Carolina Panthers. He finished that season by taking the 3-3 Cowboys under Bledsoe to the playoffs.

While the cynics will often mention the Cowboys' lack of ultimate success during the Romo era -- his teams were 2-4 in six playoff appearances between 2006 and 2014 -- they also fail to see the big picture. Like the low-drafted Tom Brady, Romo represented one of the NFL's great success stories. Plucked from Division II obscurity at a time when mid-level NCAA scouting was not a strength in most personnel departments, he worked his way through the system and up the depth chart. On the field, his combination of rambling playmaker and precision passer fit perfectly with a series of showtime offenses built by Jones. From the Terrell Owens and Terry Glenn era to the rise of Dez Bryant, Romo was one of the franchise's most important mainstays.

He was also one of the Cowboys' toughest players. During his career, Romo played through broken fingers and ribs, a broken back and a punctured lung. He rushed his recovery from broken clavicles and fingers, often finishing games with a significant limp or hunch.

Romo will finish his Cowboys career as the franchise leader in passing yards (34,183), touchdowns (248) and, most notably, winning drives. Romo's 30 game-winning drives is seven better than fellow Cowboys legend Roger Staubach and nine more than Troy Aikman.

The development followed a bungled trade attempt from Jones. Jones told all 32 teams that they could speak with, or work out the quarterback as they saw fit. Hoping to generate enough interest to receive a return on their investment, Jones never got that far and Romo made up his mind.

This was not the cleanest of endings for the star. Despite humbly accepting the rise of Prescott, Romo wanted to play. As Slater reported, that manifested itself in some minor spats over the last few weeks. Romo distanced himself from the pro-Prescott teammates and coaches and eagerly awaited a resolution. Slater mentioned all along, though, that broadcasting and retirement was weighing heavily on his mind.

Aftershock from this decision could be felt for weeks, especially for teams like the Houston Texans. Bill O'Brien's club was not interested in trading for Romo but was certainly enticed by the chance to pair the NFL's 29th all-time passer with a pair of dynamic young receivers in DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller. Romo noted Tuesday that the Texans led the list of teams that he was interested in potentially joining, but he felt the CBS job was too good to pass up.

The Broncos, always with one eye on the veteran quarterback market, could have been a fascinating fit for the freewheeling Romo, too.

Instead, we might now see Houston working the veteran free-agent market behind prospective starter Tom Savage. Perhaps the Texans will step up their efforts to unearth a quarterback in this year's draft.

None will immediately match the star power created by a Romo arrival. As yet another reminder that a golden age of quarterbacking is coming to an end, Romo follows Brett Favre, Kurt Warner and Peyton Manning out the door. He will now have the chance to cover the next great crop from the television booth.

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