Extension brings extra expectations for Cowboys’ Romo

DALLAS — If it’s possible to raise expectations when they’re already through the roof, the Cowboys accomplished that Friday for quarterback Tony Romo.

Romo signed a six-year,
$108 million contract extension — with $55 million guaranteed — that will almost certainly keep him in Dallas his entire career. Romo became the highest-paid Cowboys player in franchise history and the fifth highest-paid player in the NFL.

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones wanted a Romo-friendly offense before, but now what? Well, Jones has moved the relationship beyond the friends-only stage. He’s now married to Romo, for better or worse.

Romo now has more pressure on him than ever to lead the Cowboys to their first Super Bowl since the 1995 season.

“Romo is someone I expect our staff to deploy according to his pay scale,” Jones said last month at league meetings in Phoenix. “Stay tuned, but he’s going to have high expectations, I promise you that.”

Romo doesn’t exactly have time on his side to deliver on those expectations, however. He turns 33 years old in three weeks.

However, the Cowboys view Romo as a “young” 32 by NFL standards because he didn’t start for the first time until he was 26.

The last quarterback 33 or older to win a Super Bowl was Brad Johnson for the 2002 Buccaneers. Before that, it was John Elway who won back-to-back titles in 1997 and 1998 at 37 and 38.

Romo was the fifth-oldest starting quarterback in the NFL last season. And, in case you haven’t been paying attention, this isn’t an old man’s league.

“This football team is a good team, and with all the people we have coming back and the things we are doing behind the scenes, it will make us a very difficult ball club to beat,” Romo said Friday in a statement. “I am excited that ownership and the organization believe in me to get this job done.”

Romo ranks among the best quarterbacks in the NFL in terms of stats. He’s passed for more than 9,000 yards and 59 touchdowns over the last two seasons, but the Cowboys have a 16-16 record to show for it.

So ask yourself this: Has Romo already peaked in his career? Is he as good as he’s going to get?

Hard to say, but this much we know: The Cowboys haven’t been able to win with Romo in his prime years, so how will they win with Romo at quarterback in his mid-to late 30s?

“He has a proven, veteran quarterback grasp of the intellectual side of the game,” Jones said Friday in a statement. “He is moving into a period of time where he can maximize all of his natural skills while continuing to build upon the talents that he has developed since entering the NFL.

“In today’s game, every NFL franchise understands the importance of production and continuity at quarterback and, historically, few franchises have enjoyed those benefits more than the Dallas Cowboys.”

If Romo plays out the remaining seven years of his contract through the 2019 season, he’ll be on the verge of turning 40 years old. But there’s certainly no guarantee Romo is around that long.

Dallas-based agent Jordan Woy, who is currently negotiating with the Cowboys on a long-term contract for defensive end Anthony Spencer, tweeted this Friday: “I’m happy for Tony Romo, like all players who sign new deals, but never look at an NFL contract past the first three years.”

Romo will be paid $57 million over the first three years of his contract. The three-year total is important because most contracts are relatively easy for a team to get out of after that time.

Romo’s three-year total is the fifth-highest in league history behind Peyton Manning (twice), Joe Flacco and Drew Brees.

But those three quarterbacks have each won a Super Bowl. Romo has one playoff win since he took over as the Cowboys’ starting quarterback midway through the 2006 season.

As an undrafted player out of Eastern Illinois, Romo doesn’t have to win another game and — in many ways — his NFL career would be considered a major success.

However, Romo is driven by competition and craves success at the highest levels. With the ink dry on a $100 million contract, it’s now Super Bowl or bust for Romo more than it ever has been.

The Cowboys have anted up big time to make sure of that.

“We haven’t had the type of success that we have all wanted the last few years, but I do know that we are on the verge of doing that,” Romo said. “I have been around good teams and bad teams, and our team is about to take that next step.

“Our goal is the Super Bowl, and I am determined and honored to be the guy in this position to help our team do that.”