When Carson Palmer was selected with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2003 draft, he became an instant multimillionaire. His rookie contract was for six years and $49 million, including a $10 million signing bonus. This, of course, was before Palmer had ever played a single NFL game.
Palmer, of course, wasn't necessarily a bust. He led the Bengals to the playoffs twice, once in '05 and once in '09, though they never won a playoff game. After the team went 11-5 in the '05 season and won the AFC North, Palmer signed a 10-year contract extension for $122.5 million, including a $15 million signing bonus.
Since he was eventually traded to the Raiders, the Bengals escaped paying him the ridiculous amount of money promised, and since Palmer helped rebuild the Bengals, he served his purpose. However, what would have happened if he went the way of JaMarcus Russell or Ryan Leaf?
Had Carson Palmer been a bust after signing such a huge rookie contract, it would have set the team back for a very long time. Luckily that wasn't the case, but it could have been.
Though Andy Dalton has also taken the Bengals to the playoffs twice, he has been the subject of a lot of scrutiny from fans and analysts. He has been judged on everything from his lack of arm strength to his production against top-ranked defenses to his hair color. The Bengals went 10-6 in 2012, but that was mostly thanks to the team's defense and an offense that scored when needed.
Dalton's third season in the league will tell us a lot. If he improves, paired with guys like A.J. Green and the team's defense, Dalton could have the Bengals knocking on the door to the Super Bowl. However, if he stays where he has been over the past two years or even if he begins to struggle more, it will be obvious that the Bengals may have to search for another option to get to where they want to go.
If that's the case, thanks to the New Collective Bargaining agreement, the Bengals franchise won't be set back years like they would if Dalton had signed a Palmer-like contract. Dalton's rookie deal was for four years and $5,214,198 including a $2.292 million signing bonus.
With the amount of room the Bengals have under the cap and with the new CBA making rookies prove themselves before they land that massive deal, the Bengals could draft another quarterback and not skip a beat, in theory, of course.
Still, the best case scenario for the Bengals would be for Dalton to make major strides in 2013. If he does, the Bengals could be the team to beat in the AFC. If he's not, it's no longer the end of the world.