Tony Romo arrived in Dallas in 2003 as an unknown, undrafted player from Eastern Illinois. On Thursday, the Cowboys will release the 14-year veteran into free agency for the first time in his career.

NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport and NFL Network’s Jane Slater reported that the Cowboys have told Romo that he will be released, according to a source informed of the decision. When the new league year starts Thursday at 4 p.m. ET, Romo will be free to sign with any team he chooses.

The decision ends a season-long drama that followed Romo’s back injury suffered during a late August preseason game. After Dak Prescott emerged as the Cowboys‘ next savior at quarterback, the only real question was when and how Romo would leave town.

The timing of the release allows Romo to select a new home in short order and should create more flexibility with potential landing spots. Rapoport reported Wednesday the Broncos and Texans are “very interested suitors” and will be fighting over a quarterback for the second straight offseason. The Texans “won” the battle to sign Brock Osweiler last March and they are looking for quarterback help once again after Osweiler went bust.


Clearly, the Cowboys were not confident in their ability to inspire any trade compensation for him, especially under the terms of his previous contract. Romo was set to make $14 million in 2017 with the Cowboys. He may wind up making that money this season elsewhere, but any contract will likely build in protections for injury.

Romo didn’t even last three series in the 2016 preseason before suffering a compression fracture in his back. Romo also broke his clavicle in 2015 and has not played more than two games in a row since the 2014 season. Romo is a huge injury risk for any team that signs him, having also undergone previous disk surgery, two transverse process fractures and a cyst removal from his spine.