Making Sense of Tony Romo’s Extension with the Dallas Cowboys


Tony Romo’s $108M contract extension (aka The Extension Heard ‘round the World) has elicited a diverse collection of reactions. Supporters and detractors, the media and fans, have all been quite vocal concerning the Romo extension. The dollar amount, the number of years, and even the existence of this deal are all being questioned. Full disclosure in regards to my opinion of the matter: I would have liked the Cowboys to move on with a different QB but because of the specifics discussed below. That strategy just isn’t an option. So let’s start with the contract details…

Contract Details:

Since it’s an extension it only seems right to factor in the current year since the team and the agent also factor it in their negotiations. As a result the contract is really a 7 year $119M contract which averages roughly $17M per season starting in 2013. In my February article, Tony Romo Needs an Extension Now,  I asked the Cowboys hurry up with the extension and not to delay the inevitable. If they waited until after Flacco resigned, the market would rise. Unfortunately the Cowboy’s rarely heed my advice and waited until afterwards. Either way I estimated Romo to get somewhere in the $15-$17M range which would be fair market in the Pre-Flacco Extension Era. So to see the actual numbers come in last week, (in the Post-Flacco Extension Era) it wasn’t all that shocking.

$17M per season is nothing to scoff at but it’s also not completely unreasonable. Yet many still question the logic behind the numbers and the decisions made by the Cowboy’s front office. Here are some Frequently Asked Questions regarding this controversial extension.

Did the Cowboys need to extend Romo?

Dec 23, 2012; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo (9) throws in the pocket against the New Orleans Saints at Cowboys Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

The simple answer is “yes”. As Shaun O’Hara said on the NFL Network,

"Tony Romo makes the Dallas Cowboys relevant in the NFC East. He makes them relevant in the NFL."

Without Romo at QB the Dallas Cowboys just wouldn’t be relevant. This is a QB driven league and without one, it is difficult to even compete, let alone win. Couldn’t the Cowboys get a different QB and save a ton of money in the process? Sure but who’s out there? No other reasonable option exists in free agency and Kyle Orton certainly isn’t the answer.

Consider this: Very few QB’s could succeed on this Dallas Cowboys team. The turnstile known as the “Dallas Offensive Line” limits the options substantially.

Do you really think Payton Manning, Drew Brees, or Tom Brady could succeed in Dallas? Please. They would all be on Injured Reserve within weeks.

How about someone more athletic like Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick, or RGIII?

All of those QB’s play behind strong offensive lines with legitimate if not dominant running attacks. In addition, they are supported by excellent defenses relieving them of the pressure to do it all themselves.  This Dallas team has a poor performing defense that seems to go out of their way to give up 4th quarter leads. The offensive line is nothing short of dreadful in pass protection and despite the excellent effort from DeMarco Murray, the running game is the worst in franchise history. Teams know the Cowboys have to throw it and they know they can blitz freely from anywhere. Do you really think Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick, or RGIII would even have a fraction of their success if they were the starting QB for the Dallas Cowboys?

With the exceptions of Aaron Rodgers, Cam Newton, and possibly Andrew Luck (who all play well in equally adverse situations), it’s highly doubtful ANYONE could do much better (and survive) than Tony Romo. To make matters worse the Cowboys have devoted little to no effort in developing young QB’s behind Romo. With no internal options they were left with no choice but to extend Romo. The extension was really a no-brainer. It may seem strange to commit to a player who has very limited postseason success but the reality of the situation is he is BY FAR, the best option.

Is Tony Romo Worth $119M?

Dec 23, 2012; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo (9) is sacked by New Orleans Saints defensive end Junior Galette (93) in the fourth quarter at Cowboys Stadium. The Saints beat the Cowboys 34-31 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

This is perhaps the most debated part of the extension conversation.  Many say, with such a poor postseason record Romo should only make a portion of what the proven winners are making. That argument certainly makes sense but it’s just not how things work in today’s NFL. Even with the new CBA, star players in the NFL are making increasingly more money each time a contract is signed. With the NFL emphasizing the passing game and evolving rules to protect and enable the passing game, The QB position is more important now than ever before.

Joe Flacco just signed an enormous contract.  True, he has had a great deal of postseason success but when considering his entire body of work, he is mediocre at best. Even with the solid defense and the extraordinary offensive line/running game he isn’t half the QB Romo is. Flacco may not have the guaranteed money but he does have the bigger contract and it’s reasonable to assume he will play the entirety of it.

Keep watching the market and you’ll see. Matt Ryan has possibly the best WR/TE threats in the league and yet he has only managed one playoff win in his career. If you remember that one win was pretty darn lucky too. He will be signing an extension any day now. Who wants to bet his extension will be even bigger than Romo’s? Even with the better supporting cast, Ryan doesn’t have the regular season or postseason numbers that Romo does, yet he’s sure to make more money than Romo. Mathew Stafford is also expected to exceed Romo’s contract in the next year. What in the world has he done?

The point is the next guy will make more. That’s what the market has decided. To not have a top-15 QB is franchise suicide. You have no hope. You don’t think teams without QB’s like the Jets and Cardinals would pay more than $119M to have Tony Romo? You’re crazy if you think they wouldn’t. They would gladly pay that and more for the chance to compete.

Time was of the essence because the market is going to skyrocket as soon as Aaron Rodgers is resigned. Aaron Rodgers is soon to be the highest paid player in the NFL and let’s face it, he deserves it. He has endured the same rotten conditions Romo has but he has excelled anyway. All teams know this deal is about to happen and that is why they have been pushing to get their internal deals done before Rodgers drives the market up even more.

A player is simply worth what teams are willing to pay. There are about 7 teams in the league without QB’s who would line up to throw money at Tony Romo. I guarantee he would make more on the open market than what he just signed to stay in Dallas.

Overpaid? No way.

 Tony Romo will never be a winner so what’s the point?

December 30, 2012; Landover, MD, USA; Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo (9) prepares to throw the ball against the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

At this stage in his career, we have a pretty good idea what Tony Romo is as a QB. He’s a great regular season QB with a bad track record in elimination games. He’s good enough to win or lose any game singlehandedly.  He can carry a team on his back for a little while but he’s just not good enough to do it all the time. He is perhaps both the best QB to have in a come-back situation (statistics support this) and the most frightening to have protect a lead (Painful memories support this).

It really is as basic as this: Tony Romo gives the Dallas Cowboys a chance. With no other reasonable options he gives the Cowboys the only chance.

Reality check – the best team doesn’t always win. The Super Bowl Giants teams from 2007 and 2011 and the Packers from 2010 prove it. The 2007 Giants and the 2010 Packers were just 10-6 in the regular season. The 2011 Giants were only 9-7.

These teams were pretty good but had a ton of flaws. A well timed hot streak can’t hide the fact they were just not the best teams during those seasons.  But – they had dynamic players who gave them a chance. Many times a chance is all that’s needed. Tony Romo isn’t Aaron Rodgers, heck – for better or worse he’s not Eli Manning, but he gives the Cowboy’s a chance and in 2007, 2010 and 2011 – a chance was all that was needed.

 Why not save the money and rebuild?

Dec 2, 2012; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo (9) throws in the pocket to tight end Jason Witten (82) in the fourth quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles at Cowboys Stadium. The Cowboys beat the Eagles 38-33. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

To rebuild now would be to waste the end of Jason Witten and DeMarcus Ware’s amazing talent and careers. It would be disrespectful and wasteful to do so. Those two Hall of Famers give the Cowboys a decided advantage. Stephen and Jerry Jones know this and that’s why they restructured and back-loaded all the significant contracts on the team. They went “all in” on this team. The Cowboys have 2 (maybe 3) years before these contracts bite them in the butt.

Rebuilding will need to happen then, whether anyone’s ready or not. For now all hope lies in Tony Romo and Company to finally pull through.

Signing this new deal frees more money up this season to actually sign their up-coming draft picks. It delays the pending fiscal cliff and allows the Cowboys to have one last hurrah.

Interesting detail: Look at Romo’s contract and you will see he can technically be cut after three seasons without horrible financial implications. We all know, just because he signed a 6 year extension doesn’t mean he will finish it. The guaranteed money is significant but most of it pays those first 3 years. This is a win now situation because in three years the Cowboys may NEED to start over.

Whether you like Romo or not – Embrace the Extension. It gives the Cowboys a chance the next couple years. A chance other teams would kill for. And chance may be all they need.