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Spagnola: A Lot More To Tony Romo's New Contract Than $$$


IRVING, Texas – Maybe the predicted hysteria over Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys coming to those inevitable contract terms on an extension buried the leads.

         Sure the numbers are important, putting Romo on the books for seven years, $119.5 million when adding his six-year, $108 million extension to the restructured existing money onto the final year of his existing contract. That averages out to $17 million a year, right in the ballpark of the $16-$18 million average everyone has been predicting.

         Immediately teeth started gnashing, igniting the debate over his worth, along with comparisons of guaranteed money to that of the recently-signed Joe Flacco's $52 million. My goodness, how could Romo get more in guarantees than the Super Bowl champion quarterback? Easy, since I'm told Romo's guarantee is not a cut and dried $55 million, that, along with his $25 million signing bonus, it's really $40 million guaranteed that can turn into the $55 million everyone is touting.

Remember, Romo's base salary for 2013 just doesn't disappear, and neither did the remaining $5 million in cap proration from previous extensions.

         The biggest thing for you is realizing the new deal has cleared out an extra $5 million of cap space for the Cowboys in 2013, lowering his cap hit from $16.8 million to now $11.8 million, meaning the Cowboys now have enough money available under the cap to at least draft come April 25-27, and very close to funding their rookie pool providing they don't spend another dime.

         Romo knew that.

         "I think part of it was getting the deal done so we could sign some people," he conceded late Friday afternoon, just minutes after inking his deal out here at The Ranch, accompanied by his wife Candice and son Hawk. "But I don't think we were planning on being big spenders early on, but there still are a lot of guys out there where we hopefully can add a few pieces that will make us a better football team."

         Now hold that thought.

         Because for the second time in as many weeks, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, while issuing a statement Friday on the signing of Romo, went where he mysteriously did at the NFL owners' meetings when insisting Romo have a bigger role in the offense, which seemed somewhat incongruous with Romo having attempted the third most passes in the league last season and accounting for –with 30 runs – 65 percent of the team's offensive plays and 82 percent of the yards.

         Now this time, while still a tad nebulous on exactly what he's talking about, Jones said, "He is moving into a period of time where he can maximize all of his natural skills while continuing to build upon the talents that he has developed since entering the NFL. He has a proven-veteran-quarterback grasp of the intellectual side of the game. He knows how to run an offense and run a team."

         So let's hang onto these words: He has a proven-veteran-quarterback grasp of the intellectual side of the game.

         There is it again, but this time Jones would go a tad further:

         ". . . where he will have  a significant level of input and contribution to the planning and implementing of our offensive approach – both in the meeting room and on the field."

         Hmmm, and if you tie those words into the continuing mystery surrounding just who's going to call the plays . . . .

         Might this be the real story if we can get past the numbers, some insight possibly if I might allow my own mind to wander this Easter weekend and take a stab at what might be going on?

         Because if we pick up where Romo left off above about the things that could "make us a better football team," the rest of what he said was this:

". . . and I think with all the injuries and the people coming back there, a couple of additions and the draft – and some of the other changes we're making over here – I think it's going to be a lot of good stuff."

Now, combine that with this from Romo out here Friday afternoon: ". . . but knowing that I'm excited about the team in the years going forward and some of the things we're doing behind the scenes that I think are really going to allow us to be the football team that is going to make a lot of people excited . . . ."

See what I mean? May we put two and two together and get four?

Look, what used to get you guys excited last year, and what were most of you crying for more of?

Those helter-skelter two-minute drills the Cowboys seemingly successfully ran at the end of halves and games, when Romo seemingly took command of exactly what was going on during the drives. By my count the Cowboys scored 10 times – six touchdowns and four field goals – in the final two minutes of either the first half or the game.

Who knows, but from what Jones and Romo have alluded to, maybe Romo will have more say in some of the play calls and game plans; maybe the Cowboys will run a little more hurry-up offense that he seems to thrive in; maybe the Cowboys will become more of a three-receiver-set offense that they seem to excel in. And why the heck not if you are only capable of rushing for a franchise, 16-game season low of 1,265 yards and that paltry total of eight rushing touchdowns?

 Veteran quarterbacks generally get that leeway, and let's not forget, Romo has now been in this league 10 years, 6½ as a starter.

Roger Staubach – and I know that was a different era in the NFL, void of all the personnel changes now made from down to down – would change plays all the time. In fact, former Cowboys receiver Butch Johnson told me the story behind of his memorable diving, rolling over touchdown grab at the goal line from Staubach in Super Bowl XII against the Broncos.

Well, Johnson comes into the huddle from the sideline with Tom Landry's play call, relays the call to Staubach, and well, let Butch tell you the rest:

"It's a funny story because in the huddle Roger says run the post, and I'm like, no man I got to run the 6 (that Landry called). And he says, 'No run the post.' A 6 route is like an inside cut. 'Roger says, 'No run the post,' and we're arguing in the Super Bowl what to run.

"So I run the post . . . Roger put the ball up and I just took off after it (for the touchdown), and afterwards the first person who comes to me is Coach Landry, so he's running down the field and Roger is walking off the field like a peacock, because he's like not saying a word, and (Landry) comes down the field and says, 'What did he call?' I said, 'He told me to run the post, coach.' Now we had just scored a touchdown in the Super Bowl and Coach Landry is wondering why did he change the call? We just scored. So I'm lookin' at Roger, looking at him and wondering, 'How did I get in the middle of your guys' problem.' True story."

An appropriate one, too.

Anyway, we'll see where all this "he knows how to run an offense" and "significant level of input and contribution to the planning and implementing of our offensive approach" and "some of the other changes we're making over here" ends up going.

To me, far more intriguing than all these superficial numerical bar debates over who makes what, who averages more, who's guaranteed this or that. Ya with me? [embedded_ad]

So just before walking out The Ranch to join his wife and son, minimizing my suggestion of just how good this Friday was by saying, "Good Friday is not about me, I can promise you that," Romo put into perspective the new contract that almost assures him of finishing his career with the Dallas Cowboys and the current direction of the team this Easter weekend by saying, "It's definitely a blessing from the Lord, and we're excited about that."

You should be, too.

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