I had kept asking the same question. Here, on Twitter, while showering. Sometimes while driving with nobody else in the car.
Now, I may have an answer.
As NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported on Thursday night, the Cowboys can't actually place the franchise tag on Romo when his deal expires next offseason. That's because the contract actually has three years tacked on. Those years will void, but not until after the franchise tag deadline.
In other words, Romo has an outrageous amount of leverage. He'll either re-sign or hit the open market and inevitably make a killing. He'll turn 34 next April, but if he can perform in 2013 the way he did in 2012, I guarantee he'll earn a huge long-term deal somewhere. He's a top-10 quarterback, and top-10 quarterbacks hit the open market so rarely that there'll be a high-priced bidding war for Romo.
Unfortunately for Dallas, that probably raises the price right here and right now. And so a team already dealing with a severe cap crunch and a $5 million league-imposed sanction has been forced to carry Romo's $16.8 million 2013 cap number throughout the month of March.
Even if the two sides still come to an agreement on a new contract between now and doomsday, damage has already been done. Had the Cowboys been able to negotiate with Romo under regular circumstances, rather than these, they might have been able to strike a deal sooner, thus enabling the franchise to do something other than play dead during the first two weeks of free agency.
The Cowboys should have seen this coming when this contract was put in place in 2007. It's details like these that cost organizations dearly years down the road.
"Allowing that loophole to exist in the deal would be enough to get the owner to fire the General Manager," wrote Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio earlier today. "If the owner wasn't the General Manager."
So there you go, Cowboys fans. Another reason to hate on Jerry Jones and his grip on a franchise that has won just a single playoff game this century.