Sources: Cowboys, Romo agree on 6-year, $67.5 million deal
Linebacker Akin Ayodele considers Romo's payday a message that the Cowboys are serious about returning to glory.
"He's the future of the team," Ayodele said. "To have him signed, that's important because you want to establish your quarterback who is going to lead you through things and win you championships"Romo was in the final year of his contract and could have become a free agent at the end of the season. By signing him to a new deal before Nov. 5, the Cowboys will be able to apply some of this money toward their 2007 salary cap. Owner Jerry Jones could not be reached for comment.
Romo hoped to get a new deal this past summer. Jones opted to let the relatively unproven quarterback go into his first year in charge just to make sure he was worth a huge commitment.
The answer came quickly. Romo was the NFC's offensive player of the month in September and Dallas finished October with the No. 1 offense in the conference.
Romo is in his fourth year in the NFL, but has started only 17 games. He's won 12 and done so in such dazzling fashion that Roger Staubach's grandson likes wearing Romo's No. 9 jersey, not his grandpa's No. 12.
"He's fun to watch," Staubach said recently.
Teammates agree. They often say that for all the great plays he's pulled off in games -- like running back 33 yards to recover an errant snap and turning it into a 4-yard gain -- he's done even more in practices. That's why they rallied behind him so well when he took over last season and why he was voted a team captain this year.
It's also why Dallas was able to pull off a comeback win in Buffalo a few weeks ago, with Romo leading the charge even after it was his five interceptions and a lost fumble that got the team in trouble.
"We definitely feed off him," Ayodele said. "You know you are always in a game to win it."
Romo burst onto the scene last October, with coach Bill Parcells sending him in to replace Drew Bledsoe at halftime of a Monday night game against the New York Giants. His first pass was an interception and that close game turned into a lopsided loss. Yet his career was about to take off.
Dallas won five of his first six starts in such spectacular fashion that some fans hung Romo's name on the Ring of Honor in Texas Stadium on Thanksgiving. And that was before kickoff, which meant prior to him matching a club record with five touchdown passes.Punter Mat McBriar was thrilled to hear about the contract Monday evening. "It's well-deserved," he said."He had to battle through a lot things, and he almost got squeezed out at one point. But he stuck around and had a good attitude. I think it's a great story. Underdogs come through sometimes, and he's one of those."
This season, Romo already has set the club record for 300-yard games. He leads the NFC with 1,984 yards passing and 16 touchdowns; both are second in the NFL behind Tom Brady.
Pretty good for a guy who wasn't drafted coming out of Division I-AA Eastern Illinois.
With every great game Romo's had this season, Jones has known the pricetag for the new contract was rising. He figured it was worth it to reduce the risk. Besides, the better Romo does, the more money the team makes.
"A lot of times, you don't have a choice, so you've got to make a decision right there. But we have the luxury of time," Jones said recently. "It fits him, too. It lets him have a better feel for where he's going to be."
Being quarterback of "America's Team" has fit Romo quite nicely.
He's already dated country star Carrie Underwood and been linked in gossip magazines to Jessica Simpson and, as of this past weekend, Britney Spears. Romo spent his bye weekend in Los Angeles and wound up at the same place as Spears, landing him back in the tabloids.
"It comes with the territory, I guess," he said.
So do the big bucks.Information from The Associated Press, ESPN television reporter Ed Werder and ESPN.com NFL writer Matt Mosley was used in this report.
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