Cowboys unable to use franchise tag on Tony Romo in 2014, per report

Wesley Hitt

In short, if Dallas wants to avoid seeing Romo hit the free agent market after this season, they need to get a deal done sooner than later.

Jerry Jones thinks a deal between the Dallas Cowboys and their franchise quarterback, Tony Romo, will happen sometime soon, and, according to some new details from the NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, that would probably be wise if the team wants to avoid Romo testing the potential allure of the free agent market.

Rapoport appeared on NFL Total Access on Thursday to shed some light on the stipulations of Romo's deal, a six-year, $67.4 million contract extension signed in 2007. Basically, it goes like this: If Romo remains on the Cowboys' roster at the end of the 2013 season -- which, barring something pretty insane happening given their commitment to him, he will -- the final two years of his deal, since he is actually signed with the team through 2016, become void.

Once that happens, Romo can no longer be franchise tagged by the Cowboys, making him a free agent in 2014. This would, no doubt, be a circus for a few reasons. One being the mere idea of Romo entering free agency and the ensuing media suffocation and speculation that would descend on the sports world because of it. It may not reach "The Decision"-type levels, but I think we can all agree it'd get a little overbearing.

That is because of the other reason, which feeds into the one above. If, the big "if," Dallas and Romo can't come to an agreement before that point, the Cowboys know the consequences. They know Romo hits the open market, making it rather inexcusable for them to not get a deal done while they can. But as Rapoport says, this gives Romo the leverage in these negotiations; essentially, if he wants to, he can ask, "How bad do you want me?"

And that is the question Jones and the Cowboys will likely have to answer with their checkbook. Otherwise, they risk the uncharted waters of free agency and the knowledge that everyone knows the window in which this deal should be, or should have been, finalized.

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