How Tony Romo's Contract Affects the NFL's Quarterback Market
There's no need to apologize if the quarterback money market has your head on a spin cycle, especially after Tony Romo re-upped with the Dallas Cowboys last Friday.
Romo became just the latest franchise quarterback to cash-in when, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN, the Cowboys gave the 32-year-old a six-year extension worth $108 million overall and $55 million in guarantees.
Not only does Romo's new deal sync up with recent mega deals signed by quarterbacks, but it will also help shape the structure of several future deals at the position.
Back in March, Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco and the Baltimore Ravens agreed to a six-year, $120.6 million deal that averaged $20.1 million a year and included $52 million guaranteed. Flacco remains the NFL's highest paid player.
Before Flacco, Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints constructed a five-year, $100 million deal that included a record $60 million in guaranteed money. Flacco's average salary now beats Brees' $20 million a year mark.
Romo's extension averages $18 million a year, but his guaranteed money is more lucrative than Flacco's $52 million. Considering the Cowboys are four games under .500 over the last three years, Romo landed a deal that clearly favors the quarterback.
However, Romo won't be the last of the league's top quarterbacks to get a monster deal. His new extension will likely shape the next crop.
Matt Ryan of the Atlanta Falcons (free agent in 2014), Matthew Stafford of the Detroit Lions (club option in 2015) and Jay Cutler of the Chicago Bears (free agent in 2014) will also command new deals or extensions sometime in the next year or so. Ryan will likely receive the highest compensation of the bunch.
Like Romo, Ryan has just one playoff win, coming in January vs. the Seattle Seahawks. However, he also has a 56-22 career record while throwing 54 more touchdowns (89) than interceptions (35) over the last three seasons.
It's very conceivable to envision the 27-year-old Ryan getting a better deal than Romo, with somewhere near $60 million in guarantees over a five- or six-year deal worth much more than $100 million.
Former NFL agent Joel Corry told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution back in early March that Ryan "should average" somewhere between $21-23 million a year on his next deal. Extrapolated over six years, Ryan would see a deal worth $120-130 million, well over Romo's deal.
Without much doubt, Romo's new deal makes Corry's prediction much more likely to come to fruition.
Stafford is a little more difficult to detail, as his original rookie deal (six years, $72 million, with $41.5 million guaranteed) inflates the potential earning power for his next contract.
While the fact that he's thrown for nearly 10,000 yards over the last two seasons helps his case, the Lions are also just 17-28 in his starts, and Stafford ended last season with a passer rating under 80.0 as Detroit finished 4-12.
But if the Lions decide to address his deal before 2015, when the club can void his final year for $15 million, Stafford will likely have the leverage to receive a new deal in the ballpark of Romo's, or better. He will turn 27 in early 2015.
Cutler, 29, has an important year with a new head coach waiting, but it seems unlikely that the Bears would let a franchise quarterback walk before his age-31 season. If he puts together a Pro Bowl season that includes a trip to the postseason, Cutler will have all the leverage he needs to break the bank, too.
One deal that Romo's deal likely won't affect? The looming extension for Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
While Romo beat Flacco's guaranteed money, Rodgers was always going to top $55 million, probably by a significant margin. His annual salary over the extension will also likely surpass anything Romo, Flacco or Brees received.
ESPN's Adam Schefter speculated on NFL Live last month that Rodgers was likely to see something near four years and $100 million in his new extensions. When combined with his guarantees, Rodgers would easily become the NFL's highest paid player.
Rob Demovsky of the Green Bay Press-Gazette agreed, stating that Romo's new deal isn't likely to have an impact on Rodgers' negotiations. Just 29 years old, with a regular-season and Super Bowl MVP already on his resume, Rodgers is now worth a deal that will make NFL history.
Even with extensions for Ryan, Stafford and Cutler in the wings, Rodgers' deal should have the money tied in to keep him atop the quarterback heap for the foreseeable future.
The quarterback money wheel will continue to spin, especially with so many qualified names approaching the right times for extensions.
Romo's deal will certainly have an impact on future quarterback negotiations, especially with Ryan and Stafford. But don't expect it to have much sway on the final numbers for Rodgers, whose history-making deal is much more a matter of when, not if.
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