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Trading Tony Romo won’t be easy, if Romo doesn’t want it

Dallas Cowboys v Philadelphia Eagles

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JANUARY 01: Quarterback Tony Romo #9 of the Dallas Cowboys attempts a pass against the Philadelphia Eagles during the second quarter of a game at Lincoln Financial Field on January 1, 2017 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

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The trade-or-release Tony Romo question ultimately will be resolved by the Cowboys. However, it’s not simply a question of what the team wants. What Romo wants matters, too.

He undoubtedly wants to be released, so that: (1) he can pick his own next team; (2) his next team won’t be diminished by whatever would be sacrificed to do the deal; and (3) he’ll get a new contract on the open market. (If a team is willing to pay Romo $14 million and give up a draft pick, that team would arguably pay him even more if there was no draft pick to be given up.) If Romo isn’t enthusiastic about a potential trade, the suitor may be less inclined to do the deal.

It’s one thing to tap a non-quarterback on the shoulder and tell him that his contract has been sent to a new city. It’s quite another to do it with a starting quarterback, who needs to be more than a clock-puncher in order to get the most out of an offense. As an extension of the coaching staff, the quarterback needs to be all in; if he’s doing the bare minimum, the team won’t get full return on its investment.

Romo has leverage. If he makes it clear he doesn’t want to be traded and if no team will trade for him if he doesn’t want to be traded, the Cowboys have two options: (1) pay him $14 million to hold a clipboard; or (2) cut him.

Romo also could threaten to retire if traded. While that would cost him $5 million if he followed through on the threat (see Jake Plummer), it’s another reason for a team that is thinking about trading for Romo to think twice before assuming that he’ll happily show up.

Yes, the Cowboys would like to get value for Romo; why wouldn’t they? But the specifics of this case will make it very difficult unless Romo is being traded to a place where he wants to play -- and unless he’s getting the kind of contract walking through the door that will prompt him to fully and completely embrace all aspects of the starting quarterback job.

A fight could be on the horizon. The fact that Romo and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones have a close relationship could make Jones more likely to avoid a tussle a guy who was supplanted not because he couldn’t make up his mind about retirement (see Brett Favre) but because the team’s next franchise quarterback fell into the franchise’s lap via round four of the 2016 draft at a time when Romo was once again injured.

That’s why I continue to believe that Romo will be released with a wink-nod agreement as to the places he’ll avoid (like Washington). Eventually, Jones and the Cowboys will come to the conclusion that it’s not only the right thing to do but also the only way to resolve the various competing concerns.