'Boys Have Options with Romo, '08 Draft

Upstart quarterback Tony Romo wants a new deal -- the sooner the better. As owner Jerry Jones once said about linebacker Greg Ellis' contract demands, we all want more money.

The difference between Romo and Ellis is that Romo's future is in front of him, not behind him. He is a developing player who should only get better.

And while there is no question the Cowboys believe Romo has the potential to be their long-term answer at the position, the question they must answer is: do they pay Romo now or wait until he realizes his potential before putting the big money in front of him?

Romo has one year left on his contract and has already gone on record saying he wants an extension before the start of the 2007 season. The Cowboys are at least considering the option, as they have traded conversations with Romo's agent, Tom Condon.

The biggest obstacle is determining how much Romo is worth. He was a Pro Bowler last season and gave the team new life after taking over for the immobile Drew Bledsoe. But after winning five of his first six starts, Romo lost three of four to end the regular season and then commenced to lose the wild-card game against the Seahawks.

Romo's play was reflective of the team's results. He was great early but struggled late when it seems the opponents figured him out. Still, there was enough in what Romo did to indicate he will develop into a consistent starter for the Cowboys.

It could be financially shrewd for the Cowboys to sign Romo before the season. Unless Romo is a complete failure, signing him before the season should present a huge discount vs. what Romo would receive at the end of the season.

So don't be surprised if the Cowboys do get something done.

The Texans set the standard with a six-year, $48 million deal for quarterback Matt Schaub, who has only two career starts.

However, Romo has more to gain than the Cowboys by signing early.

If he takes less money by falling into a $48 million deal, then that's a win for a quarterback who was an undrafted free agent just five years ago.

The risk-reward for the Cowboys is greater. If Romo falters, they would have to eat the money and then find a quarterback for the future.

Don't believe that wasn't on their mind when they acquired the Browns' No. 1 pick for next season, giving the Cowboys two first round picks in 2008.

They now are expected to have the ammunition to move into the top five and possibly as high as No. 1.

If Romo succeeds, they can draft a franchise running back, receiver or offensive tackle. And regarding the money, owner Jerry Jones has never been shy about paying top dollar for a player worth the money. That is why it makes no sense for prognosticators to worry about Jones saving money now by signing Romo. Jones will be only too happy to pay Romo top dollar because he knows he will get it back tenfold in success on the field and marketing opportunities if Romo is successful. He is already one of the most popular quarterbacks in the league and he has yet to win a playoff game.

But if Romo fails, the Cowboys can use that pick on a quarterback and not be saddled with Romo's contract. That is what Jones would hate the most -- wasting money on a player who is not deserving of it.

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