DALOTTE, Texas — NFL general managers often try to avoid negotiating with agents.
Some teams like to keep the salary cap tight to help lure the best possible free agents.
Others like to use leverage, particularly with agents, to lock down top talent.
But for the Dallas Cowboys, who traded the most recent draft pick to the Cleveland Browns, the most significant factor in their contract negotiations is their coaching staff.
That’s why the Cowboys were so interested in trading quarterback Tony Romo for the No. 3 pick in the 2018 NFL draft.
They’re still waiting for the Browns to deliver, and that could change with the upcoming draft, but the Cowboys don’t see the need to trade for Romo.
They see it as a valuable asset, especially since they can keep Romo as a player in 2019 and beyond.
“We’re going to keep him in Dallas and let him work his tail off,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said.
“The next year or two, we’ll let him know we’re going there.
He can still play and have a productive career there.”
Romo is entering his third season in Dallas after signing a three-year, $54 million contract extension in 2018.
But he struggled with inconsistency and injuries throughout his first three seasons.
He was sacked just once in his first 16 games in Dallas in 2019, and threw for 556 yards and six touchdowns in his final 20 games in the NFL.
In the first half of 2019, Romo was targeted more than any other quarterback in the league, and he had just eight completions of 20 yards or more.
He had a career-high two interceptions in the fourth quarter in the Cowboys’ 29-17 loss to the Atlanta Falcons on Sept. 22.
Romo had another string of struggles, as the Cowboys went 0-8 in his absence, losing to the Green Bay Packers and Denver Broncos.
He missed the next three games because of a neck injury, and Jones has been vocal in his criticism of Romo, saying that his decision-making has been subpar this year.
“I just think that he’s been a disappointment and he’s gotten into some really bad areas, like the throwing of the football, and his accuracy,” Jones said in an interview with NFL Network’s Michael DiRocco.
“It’s just been a big problem.”
Jones said he thinks Romo is ready to be a starting quarterback, but he has a “very good” chance of winning the job.
“He’s a guy that has a great feel for the game,” Jones added.
“He knows how to win and he knows how much better he can be, because I think he’s the guy.
He’s got a great arm.
He knows how the ball should be thrown and he doesn’t take it as far as he should.”
The Cowboys also have plenty of other players to make Romo’s job easier.
He signed a four-year deal with $52 million guaranteed in 2018, and the Cowboys have no cap space for 2018.
So they’ll likely have to give Romo a longer deal in 2019.
They will have to pay Romo $20 million in 2019 if they want to keep Romo for at least another year.
Ricky Williams has played well in Romo’s absence.
He threw for 1,054 yards and five touchdowns and averaged 6.3 yards per carry this season.
He also has played a lot of snaps in Romo ‘s absence, which has opened up more opportunities for undrafted rookie running back Leonard Fournette.
Fournettes had a solid rookie season last year with 4,988 yards and 23 touchdowns.
Williams is in his second year with the Browns.
He has had an impressive season, completing 65.9 percent of his passes for 3,976 yards and 14 touchdowns with 12 interceptions.
He is the Browns’ top wide receiver.
Fournette has had a productive rookie season with 2,908 yards and 18 touchdowns, but has struggled to match that production with his consistency.
He struggled in the first two games of the season, but finished with five touchdowns in the last three.
Fisher, a 6-foot-3, 209-pound wide receiver, has been a solid complement to Romo in his role as the backup to Romo.
Fisher is a big receiver with good speed, but is a more explosive receiver with a knack for finding the football.
He caught 11 passes for 138 yards against the Broncos.
Roughly a week ago, Fisher was signed by the Browns and signed to a two-year contract.
The Browns have no room for him on the roster.