Tony Romo will be the starting quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys for years to come. As the recipient of a nine-figure contract, Romo undoubtedly faces an enormous amount of pressure on top of the already huge pile he current plays under.
But putting aside the money, the haters and the supporters, Romo does give this team the best chance to win right now, and to a degree, in the future as well. What other option did this team have when there is no clear philosophy of developing quarterbacks?
So with Romo's contract out of the way and a major item on the offseason checklist crossed off, what is the realistic outlook in 2013 for this franchise?
For starters, not many of the other checklist items were crossed off, and that is cause for concern.
Besides the Romo signing and playing tag with Anthony Spencer, the Cowboys have only managed to add linebacker Justin Durant and safety Will Allen to their free-agency haul so far. Yes, the salary cap wasn't too kind to the Cowboys this offseason, but they knew this would be the case.
Some will view the lack of free-agent activity as terrible management. Some will consider it bad planning. But maybe this is all part of Jerry Jones' master plan. The bottom line is that the Cowboys still have a multitude of needs to fill on a roster with a lot of issues.
And that's not good news for Romo.
At the epicenter of the roster issues is the offensive line. Bill Callahan did the best he could with the hand he was dealt, but the offensive line performed very inconsistently in 2012. So while Romo was able to throw for 4,903 yards, he was also running for his life and forced into making bad decisions.
A major part of the problem was the play of Doug Free. Free took major steps backward and he is now faced with an uncertain future. The Cowboys are stuck with his bloated contract and a major decision to make if he is not willing to cooperate on a reworked deal.
But besides Free, the interior of the line was a problem as well, and now the Cowboys really have to solidify this position in order to take pressure off Romo and improve their 31st-ranked running game. So the biggest issue the Cowboys face is ultimately a two-part problem.
These two problems are such cause for concern that Romo will ultimately have to continue to make even more plays for this team to have a chance to win. Those will be the consequences of not addressing the offensive line and not addressing DeMarco Murray's durability.
The Cowboys have enough weapons around Romo with Dez Bryant, Miles Austin, Dwayne Harris, Jason Witten and James Hanna, but building that wall and being able to run will tie the whole offense together.
But the issues also trickle down to the defense, despite switching to the 4-3.
DeMarcus Ware battled injuries all season, Anthony Spencer is the only other pass-rusher on this team, the interior of the defensive line has major question marks and there are issues at safety.
The overall concern defensively is depth—having enough of it to sustain the team through the injuries that were suffered during the 2012 season.
The Cowboys only had 16 takeaways in 2012, which put them near the bottom of the league in that category. That meant fewer possessions for the offense, more time on the field for the defense and a lot of comeback attempts that fell on the shoulders of Romo.
That seemed to be the microcosm of the 2012 season. But past performance doesn't have to be an indicator of future results if the Cowboys properly address their roster issues. Tony Romo may have gotten his new deal, but that doesn't mean he's responsible to win games by himself.
The pressure will always be on Tony Romo, for reasons that are all too obvious. You can point to his performance in elimination games, his penchant for untimely interceptions and his decision-making, but you can't question his competitiveness or his desire to make things happen.
The bigger question is whether or not the Cowboys organization has the same desire to make this a complete team. Failure to address these roster issues will impede the Cowboys' ability to compete in the NFC.
For that reason, the pressure should be on everybody.
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