So the Cowboys finally did what everyone knew they would do this offseason. It was well known how embarrassing their cap situation was entering the 2013 league year. They went in with less cap room than what a senior bank manager makes in a year. This meant that they had to find a way to clear some cap space. They could not cut players, so that left their only options as re-structuring the deals of Tony Romo or Anthony Spencer.
Yesterday, the Cowboys made Romo the beneficiary of a monster 6-year $108 million contract, with $55 million fully guaranteed. Yes, that is about $3 million more than Joe Flacco. Forget the fact that it is a excessive payment for a player who has not made the postseason since 2009 and has a 1-3 record in those games. It is understandable that the Cowboys had to make a new deal as they had roughly $25,000 left in the cap. Romo’s camp knew this and it was a major negotiation tool. The Cowboys did not have the leverage to wait another year to see if Romo can actually propel this underachieving team into the NFL playoff tournament, because the re-structuring of his deal had to be done in order to make free agent signings as well as signing their draft picks. Tony Romo’s cap number, with this new deal was reduced from $16.8 million to roughly $11.8 million which entails not only a heavily front loaded amount of that guaranteed money through the first 2-3 years, but also a larger cap hit later during the durations of the contract. In addition, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, Romo also had a clause in his contract in which he would have been able to void his contract before the Cowboys can franchise him, essentially making him a free-agent next season. You can conceivably say that they were bidding against themselves as I do no buy the notion that Romo would command this much coin on the open market. This is a classic case of bad cap management meeting a player who had all the leverage in the world, culminating in a gross overpayment that had to be fulfilled so the Cowboys could make a push and continue to fill out their roster (The Owner should really fire the GM in this situation: oops). If the Cowboys had a sufficient amount of cap room to fill out their roster with mid-level free agents and sign their draft picks, they would not have had to make this contract re-structuring with Romo. Conversely, the latter would have given themselves the chance to wait a year to see if Romo can truly lead this team and ultimately evaluate the situation next offseason.
Romo is an enigma (19 interceptions last season is far too much). He is so talented from a quarterback standpoint. He has a terrific release and is one of the best in the league at making a quick move in the pocket to avoid the rush, buying time for his receivers downfield and making accurate throws. But as a clutch player, he simply cannot make key plays in big moments. He fails to make proper reads in late game situations and even worse; he just makes boneheaded plays that leave you bewildered. We always talk about Romo as a guy who will eventually get it and bring his entire skillset and mindset together and be a complete player. But at his age, how do you ask an old dog to change his ways? On talent alone, Romo is a franchise quarterback but on overall accomplishments as a player and résumé, there is no way this contract is warranted. Matt Schaub has led his team to back-to-back playoff appearances and has the same amount of playoff wins as Romo. Did he warrant getting $55 million guaranteed? The argument that Romo needs help and consistent play calling with regards to the running game is valid, but he should not be absolved of criticism. If you are being paid like an elite quarterback, you need to get the job done regardless. Aaron Rodgers got sacked more than any quarterback last year and has thrown 14 picks in his last two seasons (85 TDs). Ben Roethlisberger has been on his back more times than any quarterback in the NFL since 2008, yet he can still lead his team and make clutch decisions. Donovan McNabb, who was very vocal on Twitter regarding this contract that Romo inherited, did so much with less during his time with the Eagles, yet never touched that much guaranteed money (although he was signed to a big deal with Washington a few years ago, but was traded shortly thereafter). Romo is devoid of this clutch gene that all elite quarterbacks (Manning x 2, Brady, Big Ben, Flacco Rodgers and Brees) have. The aforementioned quarterbacks, apart from the elder Manning have all cashed in with massive paydays, after they hoisted the Lombardi trophy. Fair or unfair, quarterbacks are judged on wins and losses. To lump Romo into this category, solely on the basis of one playoff win and missing out on the postseason since 2009, shows that the Cowboys, on Good Friday and approaching Easter, are putting all their eggs into a basket that has quite a few holes in it.