Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

29 Mar 2013

Tony Romo Signs Extension; More Guaranteed Money Than Flacco

The Dallas Cowboys have signed Tony Romo to a "six-year" extension (starting in 2014) for $108 million. It will significantly lower his 2013 cap number but also pay him $55 million guaranteed -- surprisingly, that's more guaranteed money than the Ravens gave Joe Flacco earlier this offseason. You'll hear a lot of crying and moaning about how Flacco is a winner and Romo only has won one playoff game in his career, but overall there's no question which player has been better over the past few years. Romo was seventh in DYAR and tenth in DVOA this year. (He's listed on our site as sixth/ninth, but he drops a spot with some end-season PBP changes.) Romo has been in the top 11 for quarterback DVOA every single year he's been in the NFL. Joe Flacco has never been in the top 11 for quarterback DVOA.

When they asked me at this year's Sloan Conference who was the most underrated player in the NFL, I said Romo. Not only is he one of the league's top quarterbacks, he also has an outstanding record in the fourth quarter of close games as long as those games are not on national television. (No, I don't know why he has his worst fourth quarters on the biggest stages.)

However, there is one issue with giving Romo all this money. He's going to be 33 this year, and his decline phase is likely to begin in the next year or two. Flacco is just 28, just about to hit his prime. I've always thought the idea that the Cowboys should get rid of Romo was ridiculous. And replace him with what? Are top-ten quarterbacks just floating around for free out there? However, seven years is an awful long time to have Romo on the books. There's going to be some serious dead cap money in the last couple years of this deal.

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 29 Mar 2013

37 comments, Last at 05 Apr 2013, 11:41am by Mr Shush


by GMan (not verified) :: Fri, 03/29/2013 - 6:18pm

It's easy. Get rid of Romo because he isn't clutch and replace him with a guy who just wins football games. They are easily available on the free agent market e.g. Vince Young.

by Last Far Striter (not verified) :: Sat, 03/30/2013 - 2:19am

You should have seen the beer shoot out of my mouth as I started laughing at the Vince Young comment! I'm not sure Vince Young has the mental toughness to replace the local weatherman, much less deal with the Dallas media after losing for most of a season.

by jonnyblazin :: Fri, 03/29/2013 - 6:24pm

Romo is a quality QB, but I keep remembering that mind-numbingly awful INT to end the season vs. the Skins.

Romo may have the better track record, but I'd take Flacco's age 28-32 seasons over Romo's age 33-37 seasons. I'd be worried having a weak armed, mobile QB get a little weaker and slower. But he has excellent WRs and RBs.

by Jcat (not verified) :: Tue, 04/02/2013 - 6:17am

I wonder why peeps dont give the LB credit for that play instead of blame on the QB. When Romo's arm went in motion on that play, Jackson faked a rush, then faded back for the pick. It's a great play call or film study or both but the LB deserves recognition on that one.

by LionInAZ :: Tue, 04/02/2013 - 9:40pm

Maybe because it doesn't explain how Romo could have thrown 3 INTs to Lions defenders with a 3 TD lead in the 2nd half in 2011?

by Jcat (not verified) :: Fri, 04/05/2013 - 1:35am

The first one of those 3 was on him for sure in that Lions game. 2nd one was a great anticipation/break by the DB in front of the WR. 3rd one was created by the Lions excellent up front pressure causing him to throw off his back foot and lose velocity. That last play was broken down by Jaws as a credit to the Lions D. So again, give credit to the opposition for being prepared and creating their own opportunities.

by theslothook :: Fri, 03/29/2013 - 6:33pm

Isn't it strange how the prime of a qb is so inconsistent across players? I mean --- Romo is headed for his decline and yet Brady and Manning were 1 and 2 in dyar and they are 35 and 36! Kurt warner was great right up until the end too. And yet then you have mcnabb who was washed up relatively quickly.

by jonnyblazin :: Fri, 03/29/2013 - 6:58pm

Not to mention Philip Rivers, who has declined sharply the past two years and will be 32 next season.

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Sat, 03/30/2013 - 8:16am

I suspect it comes down to whether the guy accepts his limitations as he declines. The Patriots will certainly be creating schemes that only allow Brady to do what he is capable of.

I remember watching an interview with Dan Fouts where he said that as he got older, he understood and read the game better even though his arm declined. Whether the stats bear that out is a different matter.

by arias :: Mon, 04/01/2013 - 7:26am

That sounds to me like he was just rationalizing to himself how he hadn't lost a step in order to maintain his psychological edge and ego to play his position. Jimmy Connors was saying the same thing too as he continued playing in Slams at 37, that he was just as good a player as his earlier years and whatever he lost from age he made up from in experience.

It wasn't true.

by Mr Shush :: Fri, 04/05/2013 - 11:41am

Also on what type of player a guy is to begin with. Romo's greatest skill is probably his elusiveness, which may simply disappear. He's not terribly accurate (a skill which holds up well) and it's not clear that he can lose much arm strength to age without ceasing to be a viable starter (cf. Chad Pennington). You never know for sure, but he's not a guy I would bet the house on having a late, slow or graceful decline.

by MehlLageman56 (not verified) :: Sat, 03/30/2013 - 1:02pm

Philip Rivers' decline has a lot to do with the decline of his offensive line. If the Chargers build a line around him, he might have a renaissance.

by theslothook :: Sat, 03/30/2013 - 3:02pm

I still don't think rivers' receivers are anything special. Yeah, that o line is a trainwreck and better play SHOULD fix that issue. The team has depth at receiver, but no stars the way they use to. I feel like with the chiefs improvement and denver, sd will have a hard time in the division. I could be wrong, obviously, but I do think the afc west will be significantly improved next year.

by bhauck :: Sat, 03/30/2013 - 2:57pm

It's almost like this stuff isn't perfectly predictable and they're just talking about averages.

by Spielman :: Fri, 04/05/2013 - 10:01am

A lot of it is supporting cast, of course. If you have better teammates at 35 than you did at 25, it's quite possible for your prime to be in your mid-30s.

Some of it is conditioning. Warner came into camp in 2008 in the best shape of his life. McNabb got progressively puffier.

by Karl Cuba :: Fri, 03/29/2013 - 7:11pm

I really don't know whether to laugh my head off or quiver in fear at what the niners might have to give Kaepernick if he gets much better.

I think most people here know my opinion of Romo, that he is too inconsistent and has hugely benefited from very good pass targets. His best asset has been his elusiveness, which coupled with a quick release meant that he could produce behind an inconsistent line. I don't think it's unreasonable to suggest his elusiveness will decline with age.

I wouldn't give him this money but then I think that qb's are overpaid and the growth in qb pay is unsustainable.

by theslothook :: Fri, 03/29/2013 - 8:50pm

If kaep wins the superbowl/puts up even 1 mvp year - he will be the highest paid player in the league unquestionably.

I still think you're being a bit too harsh on Romo. I mean, I guess it really all depends on what standard you want to hold him to. Is he clearly anywhere near the elites? No. Is he close to big ben? Id say yes and Id say hes a significant upgrade over the majority of qbs in the league.

I feel bad for him in some ways. Again, hes actually posted quite good numbers in 4th quarters/close games - I think hes just being victimized as the new Manning poster boy choker. I mean, someone mentioned this last year - but if romo had played like brady had in the sb, we'd all be focusing in on romo's idiotic int and safety as the reasons the cowboys lost, not anything else.

by JonFrum :: Sat, 03/30/2013 - 1:18pm

Funny how winning Super Bowls and MVPs does that. Romo is Mr Next Year. The people who love him always tell us that he's really that good, and with minor tweaks he's prove it. Well... he's running out of years to do it.

by Anonymousse (not verified) :: Sat, 03/30/2013 - 7:54pm

How has he not already proved it? He's been one of the top 10 QBs in the league the last 5 years.

by MC2 :: Sat, 03/30/2013 - 9:31pm

Yeah, but he doesn't ... (drum roll) ... WIN PLAYOFF GAMES!!!!!!!!!!

You know, he puts up good stats and all, but he's no Mark Sanchez!!!

by Danish Denver-Fan :: Fri, 03/29/2013 - 7:59pm

I'm with the guys above. I don't put too much stock in the ae thing. At this point I'm won't expect decline in year N+1 from a top-player before I see decline in year N. The league seems to be chuck full of players like Manning, Brady, Lewis, Gonzales and so on. Either it's a total crapshoot or it's very easy for teams - who have all the information - to predict.

Also Romo was fairly old when he got the starting gig - 27 - so maybe that gives him a little extra in the tank.

Has correlation between number of snaps and career length ever been proven, or researched even?

by Turin :: Fri, 03/29/2013 - 8:03pm

However, seven years is an awful long time to have Romo on the books. There's going to be some serious dead cap money in the last couple years of this deal.

Signing bonuses can only be pro-rated over 5 years. Then again the article says he's getting a base salary of $11.5M and a signing bonus of $25M, but only counts against the cap $11.8M (which is not mathmatically possible). Obviously something was reported incorrectly, but assuming that $25M is actually a signing bonus (and not some other type of bonus) there shouldn't be any dead money over the final two years.

The Packers appear to be pursuing a similar path of amoritizing signing bonus money before the extension begins with Rodgers' (rumored) deal, which would have the same effect of prevent huge amounts of potential dead money at the end of the deal.

by Dan :: Fri, 03/29/2013 - 9:19pm

It looks like this is designed as a four or five year deal at about $16M per year. Dallas can cut Romo four years from now (after the 2016 season), having paid $65.5M and with $5M in dead money against the 2017 cap. Or, they can cut him five years from now (after the 2017 season), out $79.5M and with no dead money.

If Dallas wants to cut him sooner, then that will hurt because of the $55M guarantee. If they want to keep him longer, then there's a good chance that they'll renegotiate since he'll be owed about $20M per year for the two years after that.

by Dan :: Fri, 03/29/2013 - 9:36pm

Flacco's deal is $20M per year, for 3-6 years. Here's how much they each take home, depending on how many years they stick around (based on the numbers at rotoworld; there may be some complications that I'm missing):

1-$55M ($55M/yr)
2-$55M ($27.5M/yr)
3-$57M ($19M/yr)
4-$65.5M ($16.4M/yr)
5-$79.5M ($15.9M/yr)
6-$99M ($16.5M/yr)
7-$119.5M ($17.1/yr)

1-$52M ($52M/yr)
2-$52M ($26M/yr)
3-$62M ($20.7M/yr)
4-$80M ($20M/yr)
5-$100.6M ($20.1M/yr)
6-$120.6M ($20.1M/yr)

by Dan :: Tue, 04/02/2013 - 11:54pm

These numbers might be wrong; overthecap lists Romo as counting $133M against the cap over the next 7 years (if he plays out his whole contract), rather than the $119.5M which I saw else elsewhere (and was basing this on). And neither one of those numbers matches the reports that it's a 6-year $108M extension (when he was due to count $16.8M against the cap this year).

So Romo's actual per-year pay might be around $16M (if my original anaysis was right), or $18M (if the 6-year $108M report is right), or $19M (if the 7-year $133M amount is right).

by Jerry :: Sat, 03/30/2013 - 2:20am

Somehow, I'm not surprised that Jerry Jones would find a way to pay his quarterback more than the defending champions.

by Anonymousse (not verified) :: Mon, 04/01/2013 - 9:55am

Of course he would. He has a better quarterback than the defending champions do....

(That, and the contract isn't nearly as much when you start looking at the money the players will actually get.)

by Dice :: Sat, 03/30/2013 - 6:29pm

Romo isn't as awful as pundits sometimes say he is, and the Cowboys needed to keep him. Simple as that.

by Steve in WI :: Mon, 04/01/2013 - 11:19am

I guess. It just seems insane that Romo (and Flacco) are commanding that kind of money. I do agree that Romo is not a bad QB by any means and that the Cowboys need him, so if that's what the market requires, then it's not crazy.

by BJR :: Thu, 04/04/2013 - 3:11pm

Tony Romo's most recent performances are simply outstanding. Seriously, check out his numbers from the second half of last season. That is why he is being rewarded now.

by Lance :: Sun, 03/31/2013 - 2:34am

One thing to consider is that while the cap is projected to be flat for the next few years, by 2016 it should go up by something like $5 million and continue to move up after that. Thus, some of those later years in the Romo deal might not be as crushing as one might expect.

by Dean :: Mon, 04/01/2013 - 3:34pm

I caught a lot of flack for saying that in hindsight, Flacco's deal wouldn't look outrageous at all. The reason was that Flacco was the first domino. Romo is the second. I'd much rather have Flacco, yet Romo got paid more. And the price of a francise QB will only go up from here.

by Dan :: Mon, 04/01/2013 - 3:50pm

Flacco is getting $20M per year, Romo is getting $16-17M. Romo gets a little more guaranteed, but as long as they both stick around for more than 2 years Flacco will get more money.

by commissionerleaf :: Wed, 04/03/2013 - 12:58pm

Which is kind of crazy, given that Flacco is a league-average QB with a ring and Romo is one of the six or seven best quarterbacks in the NFL. I understand the age argument, but quarterbacks seem to be able to play up to year 40 as long as they maintain their desire to do so and work ethic (see: McNabb). Warner and Favre got hit a lot during their careers and were still going strong (in Warner's case) or had recently been competent (in Favre's) when they hung it up.

Unless you think Romo's injuries are a "skill" rather than luck (and I am on the "luck" bandwagon, mostly), then his deal is a much better choice by Dallas than Flacco's is by the Ravens. They have Romo locked up for most of his useful life for less money than an inaccurate quarterback who had every football pundit in the league - even here! - screaming for his team to run more last season.

by commissionerleaf :: Wed, 04/03/2013 - 1:06pm

Just for context, I went to PFR. I searched for Romo and then went to the "league leaders" sections for QB stats in 2012. Romo was of course all over the top tens. I first found Flacco under "Sacked Yards Lost".

Career Yards Per Attempt: Romo 7.9, Flacco 7.1
Career Comp %: Romo 64.7, Flacco 60.5 (and under 60% two years running)

Flacco has never thrown 26 touchdowns in a season. Romo has never completed a season and FAILED to throw at least 26 touchdowns.

Flacco has never thrown 4000 yards in a season. Romo has never completed a season and FAILED to throw at least 4000 yards.

The Ravens made a huge mistake.

by bravehoptoad :: Wed, 04/03/2013 - 6:39pm

Their biggest mistake was letting Flacco ride out a franchise tag the year they win a Super Bowl.

by snarfsnarfington (not verified) :: Thu, 04/04/2013 - 12:02pm

Tony Romo is not good because he stinks!