Tony Romo signed a long-term contract to continue calling NFL games for CBS, the network confirmed Friday night, ending the potential free agency of one of the most popular broadcasters in sports before it even began.

For months, Romo’s future had been the subject of speculation with his contract up this winter and ESPN, potentially looking to upgrade its “Monday Night Football” booth, lurking. Instead, Romo will return to CBS this fall to call games alongside partner Jim Nantz, avoiding the open market.

A source familiar with the negotiations said the deal will pay Romo in excess of $17 million per year, the highest annual salary ever for a broadcaster. CBS declined to comment on the terms of the deal, which were first reported by The New York Post.

Romo, a former Dallas Cowboys quarterback, retired from the NFL after the 2016 season and quickly became a broadcasting sensation. In the booth, he has developed a popular parlor trick of predicting plays before they happen, most famously in the 2019 AFC championship game. That knowledge, combined with an enthusiasm for the sport, has made Romo the most talked about announcer in the industry since John Madden — and the rare broadcaster with name recognition beyond die-hard fans.

Romo will also be reunited with Nantz, with whom he shares an easy chemistry in the booth. The two are close away from football, too.

“He’s one of my best friends in the world,” Romo said of Nantz in 2018.

The NFL is expected to renegotiate its TV rights deals this year — the current deals expire in 2022 — as soon as the owners finalize a collective bargaining agreement with players. CBS, which was recently outbid for SEC football rights by ESPN beginning in 2024, has now rather forcefully signaled to the NFL the league’s importance to the network. (CBS pays the NFL about $1 billion under the terms of its current deal that runs from 2014-2022; Romo’s new contract extends past 2022.)

CBS’s recruitment of Romo had been ongoing, at least informally, since last summer, but heated up a week after the Super Bowl in Pebble Beach, Calif., where Romo was playing in a pro-am golf tournament. There, Nantz, Romo, CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus and a few others had dinner and discussed Romo’s future.

With Romo expressing his desire to stay, CBS spent the following weeks hammering out the deal, finally closing it Friday, three days before the end of the network’s exclusive window to negotiate with him.

Romo and Nantz are scheduled to call the Super Bowl on CBS next season.

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