The addition of a receiving running back (Bernard)
The addition of a second pass-catching tight end (Eiffert)
A second year for young wide receivers to emerge (Sanu & Jones)
Still throwing to one of the top wide receivers in the NFL (Green)
All of these ingredients were supposed to lead to Andy Dalton having his breakout season this year.
But, the results are mixed, at best.
The good news is that Dalton is on pace for over 600 passing attempts, and for over 4,500 passing yards.
The bad news is everything else.
His completion % is no better than last year (62.4% vs. 62.3%)
His INT % is worse (3.4% vs 3.0%)
His TD % is worse (4.7% vs 5.1%)
His QB Rating is down (86.7 vs 87.4)
His TD:INT ratio is worse (1.4 vs 1.7)
He has as many horrible games (games with a QB Rating under 60) this year (three) as he had in his rookie year (one) and last year (two) combined.
So this hoped for "emergence" doesn’t seem to be taking place.
That being said, what are options for Quarterback in 2014?
Option #1 Andy Dalton
The most obvious option is to stay the course with the current QB. Dalton has another year under contract. He’s still a better option than what teams like J’ville or Arizona or Minnesota have going on. So the Bengals can keep him on board because he’s already signed, and just figure that he’s going to stay at his present level of being "good", but no better, and hopefully no worse. It’s not an upgrade. It’s not a downgrade. But it’s the most realistic option.
Option #2 Josh Johnson (or a current roster player)
Johnson is the current #2 on the Bengals’ depth chart. Barring an injury, or a huge blowout win (or loss) Johnson likely won’t see the field this year. With his feet and nice deep ball and seemingly better pocket awareness, he could be a potential upgrade. But the disappearing trick that his accuracy plays at times could be a big downgrade. He likely wouldn’t be a mid-season replacement (unless the Bengals go on a horrible losing streak), but he could be a post-season replacement.
Option #3 NFL Draft Pick
The Bengals are currently 6-4 with some winnable games coming up (CLE, MIN). So a high 1st round pick is highly unlikely. Odds are that the Bengals will be picking in the lower portion of round 1 next year. Any elite QB prospect will be long gone by then, and the Bengals are unlikely to give up a lot of picks to move up, since Marvin’s strategy tends to be to fill the roster with many solid BPA draft picks.
Any QB taken at the end of round 1 or in round 2 isn’t going to be an elite caliber prospect like Luck or Manning, but will likely be a work in progress with at least one hole in his game that needs to be fixed, or a stop-gap player that isn’t much of an upgrade. The draft route would be an option, but likely doesn’t result in a replacement for the 2014 season.
Option #4 Free Agency
There are a few ex-starting NFL QB’s in the 2014 class of free agents, although nothing too exciting. Jay Cutler tops the list of candidates. He’s been a solid QB in the NFL, but never elite as expected when Chicago gave up a ton of picks for him. It’s debatable if Cutler is any better than Dalton.
Option #5 Trade
Carson Palmer netted a pair of high picks. And as much as Philly got for a lousy backup in Kevin Kolb, and as much as the Chiefs had to give away for Alex Smith, it’s unlikely that a trade will work. The trading team will want too much, and nobody is going to trade away anybody who is an upgrade to Dalton. There aren’t too many teams with a pair of QB’s better than Dalton, that they’d be able to part with one of them. And if an NFL team had that luxury, they’d want a lot for him.