WASHINGTON — Call it the tweet heard ’round the NFL (which set off a volley of conflicting reports sourcing unnamed officials posturing to ensure that they have the upper hand in negotiations, if and when a deal is discussed).
On Friday afternoon, NFL insider Ian Rapoport suggested not just that the Washington Redskins were in trade talks with the San Francisco 49ers, but that a third team and quarterback could be included: Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys.
Never mind that three-team trades are unusual in any sport, and are practically unheard of in football. Never mind that the Cowboys and Redskins are one of the best rivalries in the NFL, or that Tony Romo has been the face of that franchise for a decade.
Remember, Redskins fans, if the masks descend from the ceiling, please put yours on first before assisting the fan next to you. Air will be flowing even if the bag does not inflate.
Tony Romo-to-the-Redskins has been floated by columnists and hot take specialists ever since it became clear that the Redskins would not commit to Kirk Cousins long-term. Romo, when healthy, is still an appealing quarterback with a long track record of regular season success.
It is conceivable to imagine that the Redskins brass, seeing the talent assembled on both sides of the ball, sees the team in win-now mode. A player of healthy Romo’s ability could put the Redskins over the top.
That makes sense as long as we’re talking about a game of Madden, where you can turn injury settings off and quit the game at any time.
If there’s any silver lining to this situation, it’s that the report feels made up. That’s not a knock on Rapoport, it’s an acknowledgment that he’s a cog in the NFL machine. As Clarence Hill Jr. noted, the Cowboys need to move Romo and his contract, preferably before free agency. Getting his name out there early helps his next employer step up to the plate and make an offer.
The problem is that this situation isn’t very believable.
Cousins could very well be headed to San Francisco to reunite with Kyle Shanahan, but the expected return is draft picks, presumably to find his eventual successor. The Redskins aren’t one player away from a championship, and Romo won’t be around long enough to help them build.
Then again, the Redskins have done this before. Remember Easter Sunday, 2010? The Redskins traded for Donovan McNabb, who was similarly near the end of the road, from a division rival, giving up on Jason Campbell. Why? Because Campbell, while good, was probably never going to be a championship contender.
So the Redskins tried to catch lightning in a bottle. Before the end of the season, McNabb was done as an NFL starter and the team was still a year away from drafting Robert Griffin III and Cousins.
The value of Rapoport’s report and any subsequent rebuttals is the identity of the unnamed sources. We’ll never know who those sources were, but here’s a good rule of thumb:
- If this is a rumor driven by the Cowboys or Romo’s agent, it could be just wishful thinking to drive the market;
- If it’s driven by the Redskins, it could the team testing the waters of public perception before making a controversial decision;
- If it’s driven by the 49ers or Cousins’ agent, it could be the Shanahans getting one last laugh at the Redskins’ expense.
Until Cousins or Romo gets traded (together or separately), this is not a rumor that will go away. Redskins fans should take any report with a grain of salt and hope this turbulent offseason lands safely.