IRVING, Texas (AP) -Add Tony Romo to the list of Dallas Cowboys franchise quarterbacks, right after Don Meredith, Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman.
Having already inched his way toward such elite company by winning 12 of his first 17 starts, often in spectacular fashion, Romo's spot in the team's hierarchy was expected to be secured Tuesday with the signing of a six-year, $67 million contract of which $30 million is guaranteed.
Contract details were provided Monday by a person familiar with the deal who requested anonymity because the contract had not been signed. That was expected to be announced at a 1 p.m. news conference at team headquarters.
``I feel like I'm going to be with the Cowboys the rest of my career, definitely,'' Romo said late Monday. ``I love it.''
Romo replaced Drew Bledsoe at halftime of a Monday night game against the New York Giants, then made his first start a week later. That was Oct. 29, 2006. A year to the day later, he agreed to a contract that makes him the third-highest-paid quarterback in the NFL, behind only Peyton Manning and Carson Palmer.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has been searching for a quarterback he could rely on since Aikman's career ended in 2000. He went through eight starters - including second-round flop Quincy Carter and baseball refugees Drew Henson and Chad Hutchinson - before coach Bill Parcells turned to Romo. He was the most unlikely option: An undrafted guy from a Division I-AA school who'd been on the payroll for 52 games before he'd even thrown a pass.
How could someone go so far, so fast?
It started in his debut, when he erased a 14-0 halftime deficit at Carolina and guided the Cowboys to 25 fourth-quarter points, a club record for the final period. He went on to win five of his first six starts, beating Peyton Manning and the 9-0 Colts in one game and tying a club record with five touchdown passes in another. That performance also was on Thanksgiving, with the entire nation watching.
The five TDs were something Staubach never did, and Aikman needed overtime for his entry in the record book. Befitting Dandy Don, Romo soon was linked to starlets such as Jessica Simpson and Carrie Underwood.
Dallas faded down the stretch but still made the playoffs. A chance to win a wild-card game in Seattle ended with another unforgettable moment, when Romo flubbed the hold of a short go-ahead field goal in the final minute and was tackled shy of a first down. He took full responsibility, crying in the locker room, yet showed his impenetrable confidence by asking to hold at the Pro Bowl.
Romo had hoped to get a new contract before this season, but Jones opted to wait and make certain last year was no fluke. He was willing to risk having to pay more for the security of knowing Romo can be counted on for years to come.
The answers can be found in the stats: Dallas is 6-1, tied for tops in the NFC, and Romo leads the conference in yards passing and touchdowns.
Now, he's the NFC's top-paid QB, too.

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