Chris Mortensen of ESPN reported the Denver Broncos and Houston Texans are the leading candidates to land Romo. Todd Archer and Adam Schefter of ESPN.com noted Wednesday the Cowboys were expected to let the signal-caller enter free agency Thursday.
Romo bid farewell to Cowboys fans on Thursday:
The latest turn in the unsettled situation keeps the Broncos squarely in the Romo sweepstakes, but their level of involvement remains unclear. ESPN's Josina Anderson stated earlier Thursday the front office still hadn't engaged in a "formal meeting" about acquiring the Cowboys QB.
That said, a deal always seemed like the more logical route for Dallas than a straight release.
The 36-year-old quarterback should carry value on the trade market because there's a limited number of options available this offseason. He would be the best free agent available by a significant margin at the game's most important position if let go.
His contract is the biggest hurdle. He's set to count $24.7 million against the salary cap in 2017, the highest figure in the league, according to Spotrac.
The Cowboys have moved on to Dak Prescott under center after his terrific rookie campaign, so there's no reason to sink almost $25 million into a backup. A trade would allow Dallas to get an asset in return and lessen the financial burden.
The Broncos and Texans make sense for the same reason: They ranked inside the top five in total defense last season, and adding a proven QB could move them into title contention.
While there are legitimate questions about Romo's ability to stay healthy given his extensive injury history, his on-field track record is strong. He owns a 97.1 career passer rating with 248 touchdowns and 117 interceptions across 156 games with the Cowboys.
All told, the most likely endgame is still that Romo leaves Dallas before the start of the 2017 season. The exact timing and nature of that exit are up in the air following 24 hours of conflicting reports about the Cowboys' decision-making process.