The top five NFL offseason stories, leading with Tony Romo's uncertain future

Frank Schwab

Super Bowl LI reinforced the long-standing notion that having a top quarterback is the easiest way to win a championship. Matt Ryan and Tom Brady finished 1-2 in the MVP race, and they met in the Super Bowl.

If you don’t have a quarterback, it’s hard to get one. That’s how Brock Osweiler got a $72 million contract from the Houston Texans and that’s why the Minnesota Vikings were willing to trade a first-round pick for Sam Bradford and his bloated deal. And that’s why the Tony Romo sweepstakes will be the most interesting story of the NFL offseason.

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Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said he doesn’t know what will happen, but it seems hard to believe that Romo will be back in Dallas. The Cowboys probably don’t want to spend that much money on a backup, they don’t want Dak Prescott having to deal with the constant speculation about Romo getting his job back, and Romo clearly doesn’t want to be a backup. The issue right now might be finding a perfect trade partner. That’s not an easy question to answer.

Tony Romo is unlikely to be back with the Cowboys next season. (AP)
Tony Romo is unlikely to be back with the Cowboys next season. (AP)

Here are the top five stories to watch this offseason:

1. Where will Tony Romo go?

Let’s assume Romo gets traded or cut. If Romo does return to Dallas, that might be an even bigger story than if he gets traded. But if we figure he won’t be back, where will he go?

The Denver Broncos seem to be the most obvious solution, because they need to fix their offense and they’ve been down a similar road with Peyton Manning. That worked out well. The Broncos, however, have expressed that they want to go forward with 2016 first-round pick Paxton Lynch and Trevor Siemian, last year’s starter. If that’s true – and there are good reasons it would be true, starting with the salary discrepancy between those two and Romo – it eliminates the most obvious suitor.

The Texans seem like a possibility, though it’s hard to admit a huge monetary mistake and stick Osweiler on the bench. There aren’t many other teams that need a quarterback and would be contenders even with Romo, and why would Romo want to play for a non-contender? The Buffalo Bills might need a quarterback. The New York Jets, Chicago Bears and San Francisco 49ers are among the teams that will be looking for a new quarterback, but they’re all among the worst teams in the league. There’s also the issue of fair trade compensation for Romo, who will be 37 next season and has barely played the last two seasons due to injuries.

Romo headlines will dominate the offseason.

[Related: Jerry Jones unsure how to resolve Tony Romo’s situation]

2. Is there any way Kirk Cousins isn’t back with the Washington Redskins?

Cousins played last season on the franchise tag, and he had the chance to prove he was worth a massive extension. He threw for 4,917 yards and 25 touchdowns. Even if you don’t think Cousins is a great quarterback, he’s light years ahead of any other realistic option Washington would have. So the Redskins might have to overpay to keep him. Or, some other team will.

Could the 49ers make a crazy run at Cousins? If the Redskins give Cousins a non-exclusive franchise tag, someone like San Francisco could decide to sign Cousins and give up two first-round picks as compensation if the Redskins don’t match the offer. Washington wouldn’t love losing its quarterback, but that wouldn’t be the worst deal for them. New 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan used to be Cousins’ offensive coordinator, which seems relevant.

No matter what happens with Cousins, it will be debated for a long time.

3. Will anyone pay up for Jimmy Garoppolo?

We all saw Tom Brady in Super Bowl LI. Does anyone think he’s ready to retire soon? Garoppolo’s contract runs out after next season, and it’s hard to believe the Patriots giving him a starter’s contract to be a backup for however long Brady continues to play at this level.

A trade seems likely, though it’s a heck of an investment for any team. Not only will the Patriots likely ask for a first-round pick and then some, whoever acquires Garoppolo will have to immediately give him a huge deal – it might not quite reach Osweiler levels, but it’ll be a lot. You can’t trade a first-round pick to New England and then worry about re-signing Garoppolo after the season. That’s a lot to bet on a quarterback with 94 career passes.

4. Where is Adrian Peterson’s next stop?

It’s not all about quarterbacks this offseason, though the quarterback carousel will be fascinating. Peterson is a future Hall of Famer, arguably one of the best running backs ever, and he could be a free agent.

Peterson has an $11.75 million salary due in 2017, and that’s a lot for a running back who will be 32. Peterson also finished 2015 on a down note, dealt with a knee injury in 2016 and averaged just 1.9 yards on his 37 carries.

Still, he’s one of the game’s greats and will quickly find a home if the Vikings move on. Teams like the Detroit Lions and New York Giants desperately need help at running back. Peterson has mentioned the Giants, Houston Texans and Tampa Bay Buccaneers as possibilities if he is let go. It would be strange to see Peterson wearing another jersey, but it looks like that will happen in 2017.

5. Who will invest in a quarterback in this draft?

Back to the quarterbacks (though Dalvin Cook vs. Leonard Fournette will be a great debate to watch too). The issue with this draft is there are teams near the top who desperately need a quarterback, but there are no slam-dunk prospects. Some folks like North Carolina’s Mitch Trubisky, Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer has generated some buzz, and Clemson’s Deshaun Watson could be the draft’s most fascinating player. But none are obviously worth a top-five pick.

The Cleveland Browns, San Francisco 49ers and Chicago Bears have the first three picks and all three teams desperately need a quarterback. The same could be said for the New York Jets at No. 6. Which quarterback will rise during the pre-draft process to be the top prospect, and which of these quarterback-needy teams will be the first to jump in the water? That will make for some drama on draft night.

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!