Does Tony Romo Really Deserve a Contract Extension?

Gary Davenport@@IDPSharksNFL AnalystFebruary 13, 2013

As go quarterbacks so goes the National Football League, and with their own starter entering the last year of his contract the Dallas Cowboys are already taking steps to lock up Tony Romo to a long-term extension.

As Calvin Watkins of ESPN reports, the team wants to talk to Romo about an extension on his six-year, $67 million contract, as the Cowboys feel that Romo is a key cog in Dallas' quest to win a Super Bowl.

"Tony is a key piece of what we're about going forward," vice president Stephen Jones said Tuesday. "We're certainly going to be looking at his situation (in) time. We've historically (extended contracts) with quarterbacks for the Dallas Cowboys ahead of time. We did it with Troy (Aikman) and we certainly want to look at that with Tony so we can all move forward in terms of how we want to play around our salary cap with our team. Tony is the key piece in terms of how your cap is represented."

It's that "playing around" with the salary cap part that's especially important where the Cowboys are concerned.

According to Watkins, Romo's $16.8 million cap number for 2013 is the highest on the team. With Dallas at nearly $20 million over the projected salary cap extending Romo now could lower his cap number for this season considerably.

In that respect the deal makes business sense, but does another $60+ million investment in Tony Romo make football sense?

Given his performance of late that's a loaded question.



Tony Romo's statistics from 2009-2012










































 In 2009, Romo threw for nearly 4,500 yards with 26 touchdown passes and nine interceptions. His 97.6 quarterback rating was the second-highest of his career, and Romo won the only playoff game of his career.

In 2010 Romo fractured his clavicle in the season's seventh game, but the team was already off to a woeful start and would finish the season 6-10, which set the stage for the hiring of current head coach Jason Garrett.

Then things get cloudy.

Supporters of Romo will point to a completion percentage of well over 60 percent, over nine thousand passing yards and 59 touchdown passes over the past two years and claim that Tony Romo is an elite quarterback.

Detractors will point to a record of 17-22 in games he's started the past three seasons and one playoff win in his career as pretty clear evidence that Romo isn't.

That's an argument that has raged around Tony Romo for as long as he's been the starting quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys.

It's also not the central argument here. In this case the football sense and business sense of signing Romo to an extension now are inextricably intertwined, assuming that the Cowboys can get the 32-year-old signed in the neighborhood of $12 million annually, as ESPN's Watkins theorized.

That's not an unreasonable price tag at all for a quarterback with Romo's resume. It becomes doubly so when you consider that the team can backload that deal and spread out the signing bonus, affording badly-needed cap space that the team can use to address the offensive line and aid the transition to the 4-3 defense this season.

There are some, including Jean-Jacques Taylor of ESPN, who believe that the wise course of action is to let Romo play out the last year of his deal ala what the Baltimore Ravens did with Joe Flacco a season ago.

Jones should try a different approach, a bold tactic designed to maximize Romo's competitiveness and talent.

The Cowboys should let Romo play out his deal just as the Baltimore Ravens did with quarterback Joe Flacco.

Make Romo play his best football for himself—and the team—next season.

And if Romo still hasn't earned a contract extension with his performance, Jones should place the franchise tag on him in 2014. And 2015 too, if necessary.

The Cowboys could absorb Romo's salary this season, but it would mean saying goodbye to players such as nose tackle Jay Ratliff, Doug Free, Marcus Spears, Dan Connor and Anthony Spencer.

Then the Cowboys would have to restructure the contracts of Brandon Carr, DeMarcus Ware and maybe Miles Austin.

With all due respect to Taylor, this helps how, exactly?

By paying Romo's 2013 salary this year, plus potentially franchise tagging him the next two years, all the Cowboys would succeed in doing is spending even more money on Romo than they would with the extension, while possibly losing other players as "cap casualties."

Yes, doing things "one year at a time" would afford the Cowboys an "out" every season where Romo is concerned. However, the simple fact is that in an NFL where teams are lining up this spring to potentially bid on the likes of Matt Flynn, Tony Romo all but certainly isn't going anywhere.

So get the deal done, free up some cap space and fill other holes.

Does Tony Romo "deserve" a contract extension?

Maybe not, but that doesn't mean that it isn't the best thing for the Dallas Cowboys.


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