Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Posted with permission from Tribune Content Agency

The Dallas Cowboys will release quarterback Tony Romo on Thursday, as expected, according to a source.

The release comes on the first day of free agency, which was best for Romo.

The only remaining issue is whether the Cowboys will designate Romo as a post June 1 release.

If he is outright released, the Cowboys would gain $5.1 million in salary cap room. But he would count $19.6 million against the team's salary cap.

If he is designated as a June 1 release, the Cowboys can split the $19.6 million up over two seasons. It would count $10.7 million in 2017 and $8.9 million in 2018.

However, the team would have to carry his entire $24.7 salary hit until June, limiting their flexibility in free agency.

The Denver Broncos and Houston Texans are considered the front-runners for the soon to be 37-year old quarterback, who leaves Dallas as the team's all-time leading passer, but also one whose age and durability remain huge concerns.

The Cowboys were able to move on from Romo because of the emergence of 2016 rookie sensation Dak Prescott, who came to the team a fourth-round project and ended up with the greatest statistical season ever by a first-year quarterback.

Romo broke a bone in his back in the third preseason game, sidelining him for the first nine games of the season. In his absence, Prescott led the Cowboys to a team-record 11-game winning streak en route to a 13-3 record. The Cowboys never looked back, winning the NFC East with the best record in the conference.

Romo, who missed 12 games in 2015 with a fractured left clavicle, conceded the starting job to Prescott upon his return from injury. At the same time, he acknowledged he still had a desire to play and lead his own team to the Super Bowl.

It set the stage for today's transaction, officially bringing an end to the Romo era in Dallas.

It was one that began with hope and optimism as Romo-mentum took over the franchise in 2006 when then-coach Bill Parcells benched Drew Bledsoe for the formerly unknown undrafted free agent from Eastern Illinois.

Romo led the Cowboys to the playoffs in 2006 and earned a Pro Bowl bid, launching a legion of Romo-sapiens who remain loyal to this day.

It was that first season that offered the initial glimpse of Romo's star-crossed tenure in Dallas.

His dropped snap of a potential game-winning field goal in a wild-card loss to the Seattle Seahawks, sending Hall of Fame coach Bill Parcells into retirement.

Romo seemed to put that moment behind him in his second season as starter under new coach Wade Phillips and offensive coordinator Jason Garrett. He led the Cowboy to a 13-3 record and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs while throwing a career-high 36 touchdowns and 19 interceptions.

The season ended in disaster, however, when Romo and two teammates took a trip to Cabo during the bye week before a loss to the New York Giants in the divisional round.

It was essence of the Romo-coaster the Cowboys would ride throughout his tenure in Dallas.

The 13-3 season was followed by a 9-7 in 2008 that included two consecutive losses to end the season including a 44-6 blowout to the Philadelphia Eagles in the final.

But in 2009 Romo led the Cowboys to the playoffs for the third time, including his second NFC East title.

He also picked up his first playoff win over the Philadelphia Eagles in the wild-card round before losing to the Minnesota Vikings in the divisional playoffs.

The Cowboys were unable to build on that success as Romo fractured his left collarbone six games into the season. The Cowboys started 1-7 and Phillips was fired midway through the season. Garrett was elevated to head coach and the Cowboys finished 6-10 with Romo on injured reserve.

What followed were three consecutive 8-8 seasons with Romo seemingly carrying the weight of the franchise on his back, passing for 90 touchdowns to just 39 interceptions in 2011-2013 combined. But each year the Cowboys went into the final game with a chance to play their way into the playoffs only to suffer a devastating setback.

That's when Romo's back injuries began to pile up.

He had surgery before the 2013 season to remove a cyst in his back. He then missed the final game of the 2013 season to repair a herniated disc in his back, requiring a second back surgery in as many seasons.

Romo rebounded in 2014, despite missing the entire offseason rehabbing from back surgery, with the finest and most efficient season of his career. He passed for 34 touchdowns and just nine interceptions while leading the Cowboys to a 12-4 mark and an NFC East title for the third time.

He overcame broken ribs and fractured bones in his back to finish second in league MVP voting behind Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers.

Romo followed with a second playoff win against the Detroit Lions in the wild-card round before losing to the Green Bay Packers in the divisional playoffs on the controversial catch/no-catch by receiver Dez Bryant.

Any thoughts of the Cowboys finally building on the momentum and finally making a Super Bowl run in 2015 were ruined in Week 2 when Romo fractured his clavicle.

A 2-0 start was followed by seven consecutive losses. Romo returned to win two games before re-fracturing his clavicle. The Cowboys finished 4-12, including a 1-11 mark in games without Romo.

Another offseason surgery to strengthen his fractured clavicle had Romo optimistic of another bounce-back year for him and the team.

But that was before he injured his back against the Seahawks in the third preseason game, forcing the Cowboys to start the untested Prescott.

It proved to be the final turning point of a career of ebb and flow for Romo during his 14 years with the Cowboys.

He leaves as arguably the best Cowboys quarterback behind Hall of Famers and Super Bowl champions Troy Aikman and Roger Staubach.

He ranks first in club history in passing yards (34,154), 300-yard games (46), multi-touchdown games (79), 100-plus quarterback rating games (66) and career touchdowns (247) among others. His career passing rating of 97.1 is best in Cowboys history and third all-time in NFL history.

As a result, consider this departure only temporary. Romo will certainly return one day to be enshrined in the team's hallowed Ring of Honor.