In terms of TV, this will be the Tony Romo Super Bowl on CBS. And CBS wants to make sure it is the first of many.
Romo’s contract is up after next season, which could set up a multimillion-dollar TV free-agent sweepstakes for his services at this time next year.
Before that can happen, CBS is prepared to give Romo a substantial raise from, according to sources, the $4 million range that he currently makes. Next year is the final season of his three-year contract. It is hard to see how he does not become the highest-paid NFL TV analyst.
His epic performance in the AFC Championship has only increased his value, which could make him the most sought-after NFL TV free agent since John Madden’s heyday.
Madden jumped around, working for CBS, ABC, Fox and NBC in his Hall of Fame career.
If Romo does make it to free agency, CBS would have the right to match an offer. CBS has a history of negotiating contract renewals early and, with someone like Romo, the network is trying to implement this strategy again, according to sources.
The highest-paid NFL analyst in history was Madden, who was annually in the $7.5 million-to-$8 million range after he received $8 million in 1993 from Fox, as the website The Ringer recently reported.
Madden’s money is considered an anomaly and, even with Romo at his zenith, it is unclear if he could get that much on the open market. But could he get close?
Raiders coach Jon Gruden was paid $6.5 million by ESPN, but that number grew every year that Gruden did not leave to coach. Gruden also appeared on many other platforms for ESPN, while Romo basically just does the games each week for CBS.
ESPN, according to sources, would have extended to $7 million if it could have convinced Peyton Manning to do “Monday Night Football.” On the financial side, ESPN would be the biggest stalking horse for CBS, though it’s hampered by its slate of games on Monday night, plus no conference championships or Super Bowls and ESPN wanting its personnel on many of its platforms.
In other words, you have to work much harder for lesser games at ESPN.
Romo and CBS appear very happy with each other. The heads of CBS Sports, Sean McManus and David Berson, took a chance on Romo before last year, putting a rookie in the top booth.
Jim Nantz also had a hand in bringing Romo over to CBS, as the two had built a friendship when Romo was a player over their shared love of golf. Romo has repeatedly said how much he likes working with Nantz.
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When Romo left the Cowboys, he had options, but he chose CBS, which was the only network willing to offer him the lead-analyst role.
Romo spurned an offer from NBC, which would have put him in the booth for “Thursday Night Football” with Mike Tirico. Fox wanted Romo as well, but not for the No. 1 team.
Currently, ESPN says it is staying with its Monday Night booth of Joe Tessitore, Jason Witten and Booger McFarland. A year from now, if there isn’t real improvement, it could try to lure Romo if he is available.
NBC has Cris Collinsworth, while Troy Aikman is on Fox. Both networks like their top analysts, but still can’t be fully ruled out.
In two weeks, it will be all about Romo at the Super Bowl. In a year, he could be a TV free agent. CBS’ history is to do these new deals quietly. Romo has a lot of leverage because it is rare, especially in the social media age, to be so nearly universally well-liked.
That is why Romo probably can’t yet predict where he will end up. CBS is the favorite, but Romo may wait to see how everyone is lined up first.