The Present and the Future

In a continuation of his Cinderella story, quarterback Tony Romo signed a six-year, $67.5 million contract extension with the Cowboys on Tuesday.

The former undrafted and unwanted quarterback from tiny Eastern Illinois is now the Cowboys' franchise quarterback, following the legacy of Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman.

"It is a feel-good story. To me, it's a continuing great story," coach Wade Phillips said. "The best part of the story is he's a great person, a great guy to be around. He doesn't have an ego bigger than the team. The great ones I've been around -- the John Elways, the Jim Kellys -- it's the same way. It's appreciated by the coach."

Romo's deal is the second richest in Cowboys history following the nine-year, $85.5 million deal Aikman signed in 1999.

It includes $31 million in guaranteed money over the first three years of the deal.

That is the most ever for a Cowboys player. It doesn't surpass Leonard Davis' team record $16 million signing bonus.

But Romo, who got an $11.5 million signing bonus along with $4.5 million added to his $1.5 million base salary, will take home $17.5 million this season.

His average of $11.25 million per year is also the most ever for a Cowboys player.

It is the third best yearly compensation package in the league behind Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning and Cincinnati quarterback Carson Palmer.

"The best feeling by far is to know the organization, the Jones family and our coaches and everyone say, 'Hey, you're our guy,'" Romo said. "That means everything, more than the money ever could. I'm just excited to be here for a long time."

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said Romo is the face of the franchise as the team goes forward. He said he signed Romo to a huge deal because he believes Romo is the cornerstone of what Jones believes will be a long run of success as the Cowboys prepare to move into a new $1 billion stadium in 2009.

The Cowboys are set to play host to the 2011 Super Bowl. Jones said Romo gives the Cowboys the chance to be Super Bowl champions if not this year then sometime in the future.

"He's the man for the 2000s," Jones said. "I wouldn't have done this if I didn't think he gives us a chance to win Super Bowls."

PERSONNEL NOTES: --WR Patrick Crayton is next up on the list of Cowboys who are in line for a contract extension. Crayton will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. With Terrell Owens turning 34 in December and Terry Glenn's future in doubt, keeping Crayton is becoming a must for the Cowboys.

--RB Marion Barber's breakout season might force the Cowboys to take a closer look at his contract. He will be a restricted free agent. But keep in mind he hired Drew Rosenhaus as his agent in the offseason. The Cowboys can put a high tender on Barber but that might not shy teams away from taking a look at him. If he continues to perform he could be worth two high draft picks. There is no question Rosenhaus will shop him.

--CB Terence Newman's contract is up in 2008, but he was in line for a contract extension before suffering a partially torn plantar fascia in training camp. The Cowboys can now wait until he's healthy to address his contract. That likely won't be until next year. But he is a player who the Cowboys consider as a franchise cornerstone for the future. So they will probably get something done before he gets a chance to hit the free agent market -- like they did with quarterback Tony Romo this season, and tight end Jason Witten, safety Roy Williams and linebacker Bradie James last season -- as long as Newman returns to health.

--CB Anthony Henry said he's good to go for the Eagles game on Sunday. He believes he can play in nickel situations after missing the past three games with a high ankle sprain. But Cowboys coach Wade Phillips said he won't know for sure about Henry until he sees him perform on the practice field Wednesday and Thursday. He said he knows Henry can run straight ahead. Phillips wants to see if Henry can run laterally so he can keep up with receivers.

--QB Tony Romo was fined $5,000 by the league for unnecessary roughness in the Vikings game. In an attempt to avoid to oncoming blockers following a fumble, Romo went low. NFL rules prohibit blocking below the waist following a change of possession.

Romo was actually injured on the play, suffering a strained hamstring. He also was injured in his wallet. Following the six-year, $67.5 million contract extension, it won't be too much.

--TE Jason Witten was honored as a Tennessee legend during the Volunteers game against the South Carolina Gamecocks last weekend. Witten said he was honored but that it made him feel old.

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