What's one career playoff win worth for a quarterback? In Tony Romo's case, apparently a lot.
Romo signed a six-year, $108 million extension with the Cowboys on Friday (on top of the $11.5 million he's due to earn in 2013), which could keep the longtime starter in Dallas through 2019. The deal includes $55 million guaranteed -- or three million more than defending Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco recently received from the Baltimore Ravens.
It's a huge commitment by the Cowboys to a player that is much more appreciated by his own franchise than by anyone else. Romo is 55-38 as a starter since 2006, but the Cowboys have finished each of the past two seasons at 8-8 and have not been to the playoffs since 2009. That year produced Romo's only playoff win, a 34-14 triumph over Philadelphia; Dallas lost to Minnesota by 31 the next week.
Romo would have become an unrestricted free agent after 2013 -- a clause in his previous contract barred the Cowboys from using the franchise tag on him. That's not an issue any longer.
The massive amount of money Dallas put up on the table instead is clear proof of two things:
1. The Cowboys did not want to come up with a Plan B should Romo hit free agency. The team does not have anyone resembling a potential QB of the future on the roster, nor was there any indication Dallas would spend a draft pick on a quarterback next month.
2. The franchise pins the blame for its recent struggles elsewhere. You do not hand out $108 million to a player you are unconvinced can get the job done.
This all keeps the much-maligned Romo very much in the crosshairs of his critics. While he will enter the 2013 season with substantially more job security than he might have otherwise, the pressure will be on to live up to a contract befitting a Super Bowl-contending QB.
That said, Romo has been better over the past few seasons -- at least statistically -- than people may realize. He finished third in the league in yards passing in 2012 (4,903), 10th in QB rating (90.5) and second in completions (425).
The Romo detractors will counter with the 19 interceptions he threw, as well as with the fact that Dallas has lost a Week 17 winner-takes-the-division game two straight seasons. The Cowboys suffered that cruel fate against the Giants in 2011, then dropped a 28-18 game in Washington to close 2012. A team should expect its franchise quarterback to win games like that, and Romo's extension implies that the Cowboys believe he is capable of doing so. But if he does not beginning proving that true in the very near future, this will go down as a very expensive mistake.