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Looking at all the options for Cowboys and Tony Romo

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Jones says there's been no decision made on Romo yet (0:52)

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones says he can see Tony Romo playing in a Super Bowl one day, but he hasn't decided what the quarterback's future in Dallas will be. (0:52)

FRISCO, Texas -- Tony Romo. Tony Romo. Tony Romo.

Romo will be the central piece of the Dallas Cowboys’ offseason, so get used to hearing a lot about him between now and whenever he and the Cowboys get around to making a decision on his future.

Oh, and Jerry Jones said the other day on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas that he is the only one that can make the decision. Well, Romo will have a say in what happens. In fact, he is the key to the entire thing.

Romo is set to make $14 million in 2017 and will count $24.7 million against the cap. By the start of the 2017 league year, the Cowboys will have to pare cap space, but they won’t have to touch Romo’s contract to do it.

They can simply restructure the contracts of All-Pro offensive linemen Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick and gain more than $17 million in cap room. So what looks like a dire situation now is taken care of with a simple accounting trick for two Pro Bowl players in their mid-20s with Romo still on the roster on March 9 when teams have to be cap compliant.

Some people hate pushing future money out on players, but it’s an NFL reality and doing it on younger players makes it more palatable.

Let’s get back to Romo and look at the options that will be available:

Keep him

Not a realistic option at $14 million. He won’t take a pay cut, and he doesn’t want to be a backup. So not really an option at all, is it?

Release him

He would count $19.6 million against the cap in 2017, which would free up $5.1 million in space.

Release him, designated as a post-June 1 cut

This allows the Cowboys to spread the hit out over the next two seasons. He would count $10.7 million against the cap in 2017, but the Cowboys would free up $14 million in space. Sounds great, right? Well, that $14 million does not become available until June. Romo, on the other hand, would be free to sign elsewhere immediately.

The Cowboys could use that cash to sign Zack Martin to a long-term deal, like they have with Smith (2014) and Frederick (2016), over the summer. They can use the cash for their rookie class, practice squad players and have a cushion that they could carry over to 2018.

With the June 1 designation, however, Romo would count $8.9 million against the salary cap in 2018.

The Cowboys will have to determine if it is better to rip the Band-Aid off all at once or slowly take if off over the next two years. Is it better to have the $5.1 million in space available immediately or have $8.9 million taken away from their 2018 cap?

Trade

The same rules as releasing him are in effect, however, there could be a restructuring before a trade occurs to help the team picking up Romo fit him under the cap. At $14 million, that’s a fair base salary for a starting quarterback, but Romo has played in parts of five games over the past two seasons. Any team wanting to trade for him would want to reduce some of the financial risk involved if it is also being asked to give up a draft pick or picks.

Retirement

The first question that must be answered is whether Romo wants to play in 2017. He turns 37 in April. He has two young boys and a wife. He will have options off the field that could be very lucrative. Knowing how analytical and intelligent he is, he should be a first-round pick when it comes to the networks.

If he retires, the same numbers are in place as if the Cowboys trade or release him. It is also possible the Cowboys could ask Romo to restructure his contract and lower his base salary and thus lessen the burden on the cap when the retirement papers are filed.