IRVING, Texas -- To clear salary-cap space and lock up their franchise quarterback, the Dallas Cowboys and Tony Romo reached an agreement on a blockbuster 6-year extension worth $108 million, making him the highest-paid player in franchise history, according to league sources.
Cowboys chief operating officer Stephen Jones and one of Romo's agents, CAA's R.J. Gonser, spent recent days negotiating the deal that contains more guaranteed money than the six-year, $120.6 million contract that Joe Flacco recently signed with Baltimore, sources said.
Romo received $55 million guaranteed from the Cowboys, $3 million more than what Flacco got from the Ravens.
The sides did not open substantive talks until March 4. The Cowboys hoped to sign Romo to an extension last summer, but the quarterback put the contract talks on hold so he could concentrate on the season.
Negotiations heated up this week, when the Cowboys submitted their first proposal before Romo's side countered with their own. Negotiations continued at a feverish pace once a framework for the deal was established and middle ground was eventually reached.
This is the fourth contract Romo has signed with the Cowboys since joining the organization in 2003. He was about to enter the final season of a six-year, $67 million deal that he signed in 2007 and earn an $11.5 million base salary in 2013.
Romo, who turns 33 in April, is the Cowboys' all-time leader with 174 touchdown passes and holds the franchise's single-season records for passing yards and touchdowns. He has not, however, had the postseason success of Cowboys legends Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman.
By negotiating a new deal with Romo now, the Cowboys will lower his salary-cap number and free up money to sign other players such as former Lions linebacker Justin Durant and former Steelers safety Will Allen. The Cowboys have already agreed to a two-year, $4.4 million deal with Durant and also have an agreement with Allen. For this, in part, the Cowboys can thank Romo, who was scheduled to count $16.8 million against the salary cap and will now count a small fraction of that amount.
Dallas didn't want Romo to head into the last year of his contract, when he could have become an unrestricted free agent after the season. The sides have had on-and-off talks for most of March. The Cowboys hoped to sign Romo to an extension last summer, but he put contract talks on hold so he could concentrate on the season.
For as much criticism as Romo has come under for his lack of playoff success, he still remains a proven commodity in a quarterback hungry league.
Since taking over as the Cowboys' starter in 2006, Romo has one playoff win. The Cowboys, who have missed the playoffs in four of the last five seasons, have lost playoff-or-go-home games in the last two season finales -- against the New York Giants and Washington Redskins.
Romo was intercepted three times in last season's 28-18 loss to the Redskins, with the last turnover coming with three minutes to play and the Cowboys trailing, 21-18.
Owner and general manager Jerry Jones still believes Romo can lead the Cowboys back to Super Bowl glory.
"Stay tuned. He is going to have high expectations," Jones said at the NFL scouting combine in March. "I expect him to be used. We didn't extend Troy Aikman although Troy had won three Super Bowls. We didn't make the financial commitment to Troy not to have Troy be a critical, if not the critical, part of what our team was about and our ability to move the ball. That is going to be the kind of emphasis we have with Romo. He is not going to be paid to be a bus driver."
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