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 six-year extension worth $108 million, making him the highest paid player in franchise history.
In the first year of the extension, Romo will make $26.5 million, and after two years, he will make $40 million. Romo's money over the first three years -- with the likelihood that Dallas keeps him the next three seasons -- will be $57 million.
All told, Romo now has a seven-year deal worth $119.5 million, of which $11.5 million was included as part of a $25 million signing bonus spread over the course of the deal. The $11.5 million is what Romo was set to make in 2013 before the extension.
"In today's game, every NFL franchise understands the importance of production and continuity at the quarterback position, and, historically, few franchises have enjoyed those benefits more than the Dallas Cowboys," Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones said in a statement. "We are very confident in this investment and commitment."
Romo's salary-cap number was $16.8 million in the final year of his current deal, but he now will count $11.8 million against it, saving the Cowboys $5 million. His average salary for six more years will be $18 million. For 2013, Romo receives a base salary of $1.5 million.
Most importantly for Romo, he receives more guaranteed money than the six-year, $120.6 million contract that Joe Flacco recently signed with Baltimore. Romo will receive $55 million guaranteed from the Cowboys, $3 million more than Flacco got from the Ravens.
"I am excited about the year ahead and some of the changes that we have made to allow us to be a better team going forward," Romo said in a statement. "This is an organization that always gives us a chance to win, and that is always the main focus here. We haven't had the type of success that we have all wanted the last few years, but I do know that we are on the verge of doing that.
"I have been around good teams and bad teams and our team is about to take that next step with a lot of things that are taking shape around Valley Ranch. Today just further instills that and I am excited about our team and the direction we are headed."
The sides did not open substantive talks until March 4, but Cowboys chief operating officer Stephen Jones and one of Romo's agents, CAA's R.J. Gonser, spent recent days negotiating in earnest. The Cowboys had 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 its own. Negotiations continued at a feverish pace once a framework for the deal was established and middle ground was eventually reached.
"Tony has a special relationship with Jerry and Stephen and the entire Jones family," Gonser said. "He's a guy that's really laid down Dallas roots. He married a Dallas gal. He's a Dallas guy for life, and he's a Cowboy for life as well. He feels extremely blessed."
This is the fourth contract Romo has signed with the Cowboys since joining the organization in 2003. He signed a six-year, $67 million deal in 2007.
Romo, who will turn 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, the Cowboys free salary-cap space for the remainder of free agency. They agreed to a two-year, $4.4 million deal with former Lions linebacker Justin Durant and also have an agreement with former Steelers safety Will Allen. The Cowboys could create more room with a multiyear deal with Anthony Spencer, who counts $10.6 million against the cap, and are in discussions with his agent, Jordan Woy.
Despite Romo's 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 past five seasons, have lost playoff-or-go-home games in the past 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.
Jerry Jones still believes Romo can lead Dallas back to Super Bowl glory.
"Tony is uniquely qualified to lead this team at the quarterback position for the next several years," Jones said in a statement. "He has an abundance of experience and familiarity with our offensive philosophy, our head coach and the personnel around him. 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. He knows how to win games and has done it in a lot of different settings and under a lot of difficult circumstances."