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Tony Romo sweepstakes: Where will the quarterback end up?

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A quarterback who can alter organizational fortunes hits the marketplace once every ... what ... five years?

Peyton Manning, Brett Favre and Kurt Warner pretty much cover the last two decades. Sure, you can make a case for Rich Gannon, but no one knew he'd turn into a league MVP in Oakland. The fact remains, top-notch starters at this position don't change hands often.

Thus, the ability to land Tony Romo -- who, in his last full season, posted league highs in completion percentage (69.9), yards per attempt (8.5) and quarterback rating (113.2) while finishing third in MVP voting -- should be enticing for many franchises that consider themselves potential contenders. (Or for those general managers out there simply pining for a large upgrade at QB.) Four-time Pro Bowl QBs don't become available often. 

On Wednesday, the Cowboys appeared to be on the verge of releasing Romo, but now they're exploring the possibility of trading the soon-to-be 37-year-old. There's plenty of interest in where Romo will end up, though the obvious question is, how many more quality years can be squeezed out of the quarterback's banged-up body?

Analysts have been yapping for months about Denver and Houston as ideal Romo destinations, but could someone else swoop in? Below, we vetted all of the serious players, detailing the upside and potential landmines of each situation. Your take is welcome on that front: @HarrisonNFL is the place.

Top options

DENVER BRONCOS

Upside: The latest reports have the Cowboys seeking a possible trade for Romo, but Denver doesn't appear interested in making a deal. If the Broncos switch gears, however, in an effort to keep Romo from hitting the market and joining the Texans (see below), they do have a boatload of draft choices. Is Jerry Jones asking for a second- or third-rounder? Probably not. Denver owns six Day 3 picks that could come into play here.

Roadblocks: The offensive line didn't play well last year. While GM John Elway boosted that group by signing former Romo teammate Ronald Leary in free agency, it probably won't be enough. You don't sign an injury risk like Romo if you can't viably protect him. That said, I don't think Romo's so "fragile" that Elway needs the best line in the league. In fact, Romo's injury last preseason was a freak accident. The other issue? Well, Denver didn't draft Paxton Lynch in Round 1 to ride the bench for years. Then there's the fiscal line in the sand Elway won't cross. Remember the Colin Kaepernick rumors and Brock Osweiler negotiations?

Fun thought: If Elway does grab Romo, he will officially become the Veteran Quarterback Whisperer. Maybe he'll get Matthew Stafford in a few years.

HOUSTON TEXANS

Upside: By unloading Brock Osweiler's contract on Thursday, the Texans freed up the money necessary to sign Romo. In fact, as much as the organization would have preferred to retain cornerback A.J. Bouye, his decision to join the Jacksonville Jaguars lightens more of the organization's fiscal load.

More importantly, Romo's career passer rating is 25 points higher than the one Brock Osweiler posted last year -- and that's despite the fact that half of Romo's career came before all the player-safety rules made throwing the football over the middle a safe option. With a defense that is already stout -- and poised to get J.J. Watt back -- a Romo-led offense makes Houston a Super Bowl contender NOW.

Roadblocks: You can't sign an injury-plagued QB without a backup plan. Tom Savage could certainly help in the latter regard, but he, too, has spent considerable time in the trainer's room. Perhaps the largest obstacle is Romo's reported desire to play for the Broncos. Not sure the Texans have a quarterback recruiter with the stature of Elway. (With all due respect to Dan Pastorini and Sage Rosenfels, of course.)

Fun thought: Romo playing in Houston would ignite an intrastate rivalry not seen since Earl Campbell plowed through the Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day, 1979.

On the outside looking in

At the onset of free agency, the 49ers could've afforded five Tony Romos. It seems as though the organization has its heart set on Kirk Cousins, while signing Brian Hoyer as a backup plan. Meanwhile, if Cousins somehow ends up in the Bay Area, it is highly unlikely Romo would sign with the Redskins. All would have to go wrong with the Broncos AND Texans, or Jerry Jones would have to deal him there. What are the chances Jones sends Romo to Washington? As likely as him discounting concessions this year.

The Chiefs could be players here, but reports have indicated they are not interested. The team is likely most concerned with whether or not it can keep Dontari Poe. Doing so would make it financially difficult to sign Romo ... and if K.C. parts with Alex Smith, what would be the backup plan? Nick Foles is gone. Chase Daniel is long gone.

And a few more stragglers ...

The Jaguars have been mentioned in recent reports tying them to the Romo market. Perhaps Tom Coughlin is kicking the tires on a player he knows very well, and was beaten by 10 times while he was coaching with the Giants. Doubtful Jacksonville would bail on a quarterback in Blake Bortles who so many thought had progressed two seasons ago. Call it highly doubtful Romo wants to go there. Money doesn't seem to be a great allure for him, either. The Browns were thought to be early players in the Romo market, at least among the more speculative media, but an aging quarterback wouldn't seem to fit their organizational model. Or his. Not sure what the model is with the Jets right now, but with the fire sale that is going on, it would seem to be a model airplane without wings. Or a propeller.

Follow Elliot Harrison on Twitter @HarrisonNFL.

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