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Renck: Romo said Houston was 'at top of his list.' Why? Because Broncos never showed much interest

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Posted at 12:52 PM, Apr 05, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-05 15:34:55-04

DENVER -- It struck me Wednesday there were some misguided takes on Tony Romo's exit to CBS.

The point was driven home as I discussed the issue on 104.3 The Fan's morning drive for the better part of three hours. Let's retrace our steps, shall we. 

Over the past three months, the Broncos existed as a possible destination for Romo. Beginning in January after missing the playoffs for the first time in six seasons, the Broncos opened their eyes to all options. As late as the NFL combine, Denver maintained interest, tepid as it was, in kicking the tires on Romo if he became a free agent. Given the chance to close the door on Romo at the combine, general manager John Elway and coach Vance Joseph cracked it ajar.

Then, gradually, the sands shifted.

The Broncos cooled to the idea of pursuing Romo, growing more comfortable with sticking with Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch rather than stalling their development for a soon-to-be 37-year-old with four starts over the past two seasons. By the time I arrived at the owners meetings last week in Phoenix, the scenarios painted for Romo began to crystallize: Texans or retirement.

Romo chose CBS, moving to the head of the line to land one of the best jobs in the industry opposite of Jim Nantz. He pulled a Dak Prescott on Phil Simms, if you will. This represented a savvy read of the market, but came with a dig, in my opinion. 

"Obviously, Houston was at the top of the list of teams I looked at," said Romo on a CBS conference call Tuesday. "It was a very difficult decision. I went back and forth many times. It had nothing to do with the Texans. It had everything to do with CBS."

Romo never mentioned the Broncos, which felt purposeful. In talking to multiple NFL sources, including players, Romo had his eyes on the Broncos for months. The problem was the Broncos never reciprocated. They were never trading for Romo, not even one of the last picks in the draft. Any possibility, slim as it was, required talks of a low-salaried, incentivized contract as a free agent. Sometime between the start of free agency and the owners meetings, the Broncos closed the door on Romo. Admittedly, I am not sure when. It was not an epiphany as much as a pendulum swinging in the opposite direction.

I know this: By last week, Denver was not chasing Romo. The Broncos made it clear it was not their intent. Joseph then told me in a one-on-one interview of his increasing fondness for Siemian and Lynch. As opposed to the combine, this didn't sound like a company line. It sounded like a coach talking with conviction.

Romo made a brilliant move, saying yes to CBS before Peyton Manning decides his future plans or Drew Brees retires. The CBS gig represents a lifetime job, and there was no guarantee it would remain open a year from now. But let's not pretend Romo didn't see himself as a Bronco. The NFL Network reported as much on Nov. 20. Romo witnessed how Manning rewrote history and polished his legacy during four seasons in Denver. 

With hindsight sharpening focus, it was telling when Romo did not become a free agent on March 9. The market for his services was limited. No teams were lining up to trade for one of the Cowboys' all-time greats. It is a bit sobering for a player of Romo's status to find this reception. With his 2014 season as the most recent evidence, Romo can rightly argue he belongs among the league's elite quarterbacks, if healthy. And watching Mike Glennon receive $15 million a season from the Chicago Bears, well, that is jarring. Romo had a right to want to be paid well. But Romo's health and age were real factors when I talked with NFL folks.

As the Romo-coaster clickety clacked down the tracks over the past month, it spawned confusion. Why wouldn't Cowboys owner Jerry Jones release him? I believe it provided safe cover for Romo as he began to explore a fantastic broadcasting opportunity at CBS, while continuing to see if a trade would surface that would benefit the Cowboys and the quarterback.

Romo, in fact, thanked Jones, who has treated him as family for years. There was no anger, only a hint that Jones was working with him to provide the best landing spot. 

"Jerry was amazing," Romo said. "I know sometimes it didn't look like it from the outside, but he was really in my corner. I've never had a better boss, owner, mentor than Jerry Jones."

Romo eventually saw Houston as tops on his list. The Broncos were once there. It never gained traction for a number of reasons. Both parties moved on. Denver hopes it has the horses to contend with two young quarterbacks and I wish I could be a fly on the wall when Romo shows up at Dove Valley for his first CBS production meeting.

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Want Broncos news? Denver7 Broncos insider Troy E. Renck is your source. He talks to the players, covers the games and reports scoops on Denver7 and the Denver7 app. He is a CU grad who has covered pro sports in Colorado since 1996, including 14 years at The Denver Post. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter and TheDenverChannel.com’s Broncos page. Troy welcomes most of your emails at Troy.Renck@kmgh.com.