How Long Should Romo's New Contract Be?

As you might have heard, last week it came out that Romo is technically under contract for only this year and next, yikes! Heres the quote in case you missed it

Technically, Tony Romo is signed through 2016. However, the final three years of his deal with the Dallas Cowboys will void after next season as a result of a restructuring of his contract that was performed last summer.

It's a mystery as to why the restructuring of his contract caused 3 years to be voided off of his deal, but I'll just have to take their word for it. I would assume the Cowboys knew this was going to happen, and it was in the plan all along, otherwise, why would they pull the trigger on that restructuring? If it was in the plans, then we all can safely assume the Cowboys are planning to extend Romo's contract, due to the fact its tough to imagine this current version of the 'Boys without Romo under center, Jerry Jones said as much. The question that I have is, what would be the ideal length of contract to get the most use out of Romo's good years? The ideal contract would keep Romo in the fold for as long as he is effective. Right up until the end of his contract we would want Romo to play as good as he ever as. Its quite obvious this team now and in the future can't afford to have QB play anything less than what we've gotten out of Romo since the entire time he's started. The ESPN Dallas article touched on how long QBs can play for, but I plan on going a bit deeper.

First let me show you the little bit that the article went into:

Romo turned 32 in April and is coming off what many consider his best season (4,184 yards, 31 touchdowns, 10 interceptions, 102.5 rating).

The Cowboys do not view Romo as the typical 32-year-old quarterback with wear and tear. He did not play a meaningful snap until the sixth game of his fourth season. He has missed 13 games because of injury. He was banged up for six weeks last year with a broken rib but did not miss a game.

Brady turns 35 in August and is coming of a 36-touchdown, four-interception season. New Orleans' Drew Brees is 33 and threw for a league-record 5,476 yards in 2011. It has been so far, so good with Peyton Manning, 36, in Denver after he missed last year because of neck surgery.

Brett Favre and Kurt Warner played well into their late 30s and, in Favre's case, his 40s.

This is not to compare Romo with those players but to point out that quarterbacks can succeed as they get older.

So... Late 30s, early 40s... Thats not concrete enough. Yes, it is easy to point out how good quarterbacks can keep playing at a high level into that age group. But, I want to know more precisely when the clock will run out on Romo, so we can see how long his extension should be. There are two ways we could look at this, average career length and average retirement age. Additionally, I consider Romo to be one of the better QBs in the league, so I think its fair to compare his playing window to other good quarterbacks. Something tells me good quarterbacks play longer than bad ones, especially given playing opportunity that could negatively skew the average, even decent ones that lose their starting jobs to other guys (Bledsoe?). (I am only going to count their last 'good' year, sometimes only their 1st good year, since this is about length of good play. 'Good play' is always up for debate so I don't blame anyone for disagreeing with some of the liberties here) Where do they match up?


Age of QB at their last season of play consistent with their overall careers.

Retired Quarterbacks

Brett Favre: 40 (2009)

Kurt Warner: 38 (2009)

Joe Montana: 38 (1994)

Steve Young: 37 (1998)

Troy Aikman: 33 (1999)

Johnny Unitas: 37 (1970)

Terry Bradshaw: 34 (1982)

Warren Moon: 41 (1998)

Jon Elway: 38 (1998)

Dan Marino: 38 (1999)

Joe Namath: 32 (1975)

Roger Staubach: 37 (1979)

Average: 37

(You're comparing Romo to a bunch of hall of famers? Yeah, sue me)

Now, something that jumps out about this group of 12 QBs is that only 3 out of the 12 retired under the age of 37, they look like outliers. Excluding them, the average would be a solid 38. Either way, they're pretty close, cause well... it is an average after all.

Career Length

Length of time between a QBs first good year through their last good year.

Retired Quarterbacks

Brett Favre: 17 years (1992-2009)

Kurt Warner: 10 years (1999-2009)

Joe Montana: 14 years (1980-1994)

Steve Young: 12 years (1986-1998)

Troy Aikman: 10 years (1989-1999)

Johnny Unitas: 14 years (1956-1970)

Terry Bradshaw: 12 years (1970-1982)

Warren Moon: 14 years (1984-1998)

Jon Elway: 15 years (1983-1998)

Dan Marino: 16 years (1983-1999)

Joe Namath: 10 years (1965-1975)

Roger Staubach: 8 years (1971-1979)

Average: ~13 years

Here, the numbers are more scattered than retirement age, making the average a necessity.

Ok, if we can accept these numbers, how do they relate to Romo? On the age side of things, Romo (32) is looking at 5-6 more years of play. Looking at it by career length, Romo (6 years so far) has another 7 years of play to hit the average.

To me, those numbers match up relatively nicely. There is a close '3' year window where the averages align. If you throw out the outliers on the age average, between the career length and retirement age, its down to between 6-7 more years. Hmm, which one to choose though? This is an important decision here! If the decision were up to me, I'd have to go with the 7.

So, if Romo extended his contract tomorrow... the mostly ideal length would 7 years, through 2018. Romo would be 39 and have had a 13 year career. Too long or just right?

If you want to talk about imaginary Super Bowl windows, and there has been a lot of talk about that his offseason, I don't know where the 2, maybe 4 year window people talk about is coming from. If you look at a window from the point of having that window open because of a good quarterback, it's not shutting in the near future. Whatever way you want to look at it, folks, the good news here is that Tony Romo is most likely merely halfway through his career.

Another user-created commentary provided by a BTB reader.

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