Most people are lucky to get a plaque when they retire, maybe even a small party with cake. You’d think it would be different for NFL players, especially given their multi-million dollar contracts. For Tony Romo, however, his retirement gift wasn’t far off from a cheap, gold watch. In 2016, the year he retired, Romo received a check for $64.11.
Tony Romo’s NFL career
Romo had a different start than most superstar quarterbacks. After playing college ball at Eastern Illinois University, where he became the first-ever player from that conference to win a Walter Payton award, he had a lukewarm reception in the NFL.
Initially, Romo did not receive an invitation to the 2003 NFL combine. But at the last minute he was asked to come and throw practice passes for the draft contenders. While there, he caught the attention of Sean Payton and eventually signed with Dallas as an undrafted free agent.
When you consider the way that Romo entered the league, he did very well for himself. Almost zero expectations fell on the young quarterback in the beginning. In fact, his initial role was holding the ball for the placekicker his first two seasons.
Romo was deep in the roster behind a string of seasoned (i.e. aging) quarterbacks that included Drew Bledsoe. It wasn’t until 2006 that he finally made it to the No. 2 spot on the depth chart, right behind Bledsoe. Midway through the season, he took a few snaps in-game and his career took off.
Romo was one of those strange quarterbacks who at the height of his career was considered the ninth-best in the league — a solid and often-hyped player whose skill never really matched his performance. He played all 12 seasons of his career with the Dallas Cowboys. The QB had a career total of 248 touchdown passes and more than 34,000 passing yards.
All said and done, Romo led the team to the playoffs four times during his tenure at quarterback, but nothing more ever came of it, which brings us to his retirement in 2016.
A well-earned bonus
So what’s the deal with his $64.11 retirement bonus? According to CBS Sports, the NFL has a program that helps incentivize its lower-paid athletes and undrafted free agents. Each team receives just shy of four million dollars a year which doesn’t count against their salary cap. They can then distribute that money to players based on performance as they see fit.
In his final NFL season, Romo served as the backup quarterback for the Cowboys, behind the up-and-coming Dak Prescott. Romo got in on the tail end of the bonus money. He earned approximately nine dollars per snap and took six that season. It gave him a little extra pocket money for his retirement.
Romo’s lucrative broadcasting career
Don’t feel too bad for Romo. Aside from his incredible earnings over 12 NFL seasons, Romo landed the top commentating spot on CBS’s gameday Telecasts. A handful of longtime broadcast veterans took issue with his sudden hire and promotion. But he soon proved he was more than up to the task with an uncanny ability to predict plays.
Romo and Jim Nantz quickly established one of the best on-air rapports in all of professional broadcasting. As a result, Romo was awarded the biggest broadcasting contract ever at $17 million per year. He might not have made it to the top while playing for the Cowboys. When it comes to professional broadcasting, however, Romo is at the top of his game.