The Bengals got their quarterback of the future in Andy Dalton, selected in the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft. However, as Josh pointed out earlier today, the last time a rookie quarterback came into Cincinnati and started was in 1969 when Paul Brown selected University of Cincinnati's Greg Cook for the Bengals.
Cook's career was cut short by injuries and from that point until now, no rookie quarterback has taken the opening day snaps. Even Carson Palmer sat his entire rookie season behind Jon Kitna.
The best case scenario for the Bengals now, would be for Carson Palmer to return to Cincinnati to play, at least for one more year, to help Dalton learn how to adjust to the pro game. However, we all know that's not going to happen. So the second best scenario for the Bengals would be for them to sign a free agent quarterback to a one or two year contract to help teach Dalton the ropes.
Of course, the current lockout complicates things but once it comes to an end, here's a few quarterbacks that the Bengals may be interested in.
Donovan McNabb: The Washington Redskins McNabb project didn't really work out last year. McNabb only had a 77.1 QB rating last year and didn't even play the last three games of the season. McNabb isn't really a free agent because he's still under contract with the Redskins but it's clear that Mike Shanahan isn't thinking that he's the quarterback of the future, especially now that he's thinking about starting John Beck. McNabb could be a good quarterback for a west coast system for Dalton to learn under. However, if the Redskins decide that they want to keep him under contract, even as a backup, there's another Redskin quarterback the Bengals could be intereseted in. McNabb's career QB rating is 85.7.
Rex Grossman: Grossman was the guy who replaced McNabb in the end of the 2011 season and he is a free agent. He's been a backup for most of his career since being drafted by the Chicago Bears in the first round of the 2003 draft. He's got a strong arm but makes some bad decisions at times, trying to force balls into certain spots. He does know the ins and outs of the pro game, though, and could help Dalton prepare and possibly be his back up once Dalton is ready to start. Grossman has a career 70.9 QB rating.
Matt Hasselbeck: Hasselbeck is an aging but smart quarterback that still has the ability to take a team to the playoffs as long as he's surrounded by quality talent (A.J. Green, Jerome Simpson, Andre Caldwell, Jordan Shipley and Jermaine Gresham... I'd call that quality). He is more suited for the west coast offense as he has an adequate arm and is accurate in the short and intermediate passing game. Now that he's getting older (35) he will rely more on his experience and his intelligence than his physical abilities. He has a career QB rating of 82.2.
Matt Leinart: Leinart is still young (27) and has the physical tools to be able to play in the NFL. Unlike Hasselbeck, he has a fairly strong and can be accurate. He could throw the short and intermediate routes required of him in a west coast offense as well as some of the longer passes. To me, Leinart has underachieved in the NFL. For a former Heisman winning quarterback and leader of a BCS National Championship team (USC), he's never come into his own as a pro. He could help Dalton prepare for the season, possibly starting at the beginning of the year and then moving aside for Dalton down the road. His career QB rating is 70.8.
Alex Smith: The 49ers traded up to grab Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick in the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft. That is likely a sign that they won't be re-signing the former 2005 No. 1 overall pick. Smith has a good arm and is very accurate, but has had the misfortune of being surrounded by a group of receivers that drop more passes than any other team in the NFL. He isn't very good outside of the pocket or extending plays and would be best suited for a team with a solid offensive line. Smith has gone from starter to backup and back to starter and to backup again in his career, but he's probably not done trying to be the main man for a team. His career QB rating is 72.1.
Marc Bulger: Bulger is 34 and is on the home slide of his career. He still has a strong accurate arm, though. He, like Hasselbeck, could help a young rookie learn how to transition from the college to NFL game as good as anybody while still being able to put some points on the board, especially with the talent level of the Bengals receiving corps. However, if the offensive line isn't solid, Bulger lacks the ability to extend the play with his legs. His career QB rating is 84.4.
Chad Pennington: Pennington doesn't have the most powerful arm of all the free agent quarterbacks, but he is extremely accurate and could fit very well into Gruden's new west coast system. He is a smart quarterback that knows his limitations and doesn't force the ball into coverage. He's also a good leader and locker room guy that could really help Dalton along. Pennington could help the Bengals win games, he would help Dalton get ready to take the starting role and be a good backup once Dalton is ready. His career QB rating is 90.1.
Jim Sorgi: Sorgi has spent his career as a backup under one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, Peyton Manning, and then Manning's little brother, Eli. Sorgi doesn't really have the talent to be a starter in the NFL. He doesn't have the greatest arm, he's not fast enough to extend the play if it breaks down and he would need to be surrounded by a lot of talent to step into a starting role and succeed. He would be better suited for a backup to Dalton than he would be to start, but maybe he could impart some of that Manning wisdom on Dalton. His career QB rating is 89.9 (but he only played in 14 games).