Extending Tony Romo is beneficial

IRVING, Texas -- 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.

So with Romo under the Cowboys' control through 2013, should the team look into signing its starting quarterback and No. 1 reason for hope to a multiyear extension at some point in 2012?

Owner and general manager Jerry Jones did not want to broach the subject when approached Wednesday, saying, "I can't and don't discuss the contracts of our players. At this time I wouldn't want to get into any of that, not just because of Tony but with anyone."

But Jones acknowledges the Cowboys will go as far as Romo takes them.

"I want Tony Romo on this team," Jones said. "In my mind, he's the best he's ever been. I think he's very capable of competing for a Super Bowl. I don't have any thought about Tony not being here."

Just the thought of an extension for Romo might make some cringe, because he has won one playoff game in six seasons as the Cowboys' starting quarterback.

Those people made up their mind about Romo a long time ago and will never forget the Seattle playoff loss or the trip to Cabo, all the while overlooking just how well he has played and just how much he carries this team.

Yes, he has faults, but every quarterback does. On a trip to Boston in May, I heard talk-radio callers bemoaning Tom Brady, so even Super Bowl victories don't absolve a quarterback from criticism.

This offseason, there seems to be more of a "you can't blame Romo" sentiment from Cowboys' fans than in any other.

While Jones has said the Cowboys' window of opportunity is closing, he has never said how open he believes that window is. He does not believe it is about to be slammed shut, that's for sure.

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.

Romo has a game that is adaptable. He does not rely on a big arm to fit throws into tight spaces. Even if his physical skills decline a little, he has the mental capability to make up for it. In other words, he will not be a fastball pitcher trying to reinvent himself late in his career.

Looking at a Romo extension now, which has some traction inside the organization, could help the Cowboys with the salary cap. Romo will count $8.06 million against the cap in 2012. It doubles to $16.8 million in 2013. Remember, they will also carry over another $5 million penalty because of dubious league sanctions.

With the cap not expected to rise greatly in the next few years, even with the influx of new television money in 2014, taking care of Romo now could help the team be more competitive in the future and possibly slow that imaginary window.

If the Cowboys wait, they could conceivably have less room to keep their own free agents or sign new players. It would not be precedent-setting for the Cowboys to look at an extension for a player with two years left on his deal. Last year, the Cowboys did it with tight end Jason Witten and nose tackle Jay Ratliff.

The Cowboys do not have the quarterback of the future on this team.

Finding the quarterback is as difficult a task as there is in the NFL, and this team's track record isn't so hot, either.

It took the Cowboys six years to find the right replacement for Troy Aikman following the Hall of Famer's retirement in 2000. They went through eight different starting quarterbacks before finding Romo.

Signing Romo to an extension sooner rather than later makes sense.