Update: Since this report came out, Ryan Mallett has signed with the Baltimore Ravens.
The Cincinnati Bengals are facing the harsh reality of playing the rest of the regular season and potentially the playoffs without the services of Andy Dalton.
After Dalton suffered a fractured thumb during Sunday's loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati is now in search of another quarterback to add to the roster. According to Pro Football Talk's Zac Jackson, former Houston Texans quarterback Ryan Mallett is among several names getting a call from the Bengals.
AJ McCarron becomes the starter and is the only other quarterback on the active roster. The Bengals have reached out to Ryan Mallett and Christian Ponder though no decision by any side has been reached, the source said. Jason Campbell, who was the Bengals’ backup last season, retired last summer and has previously been clear that he’s not interested in a return.
As Jackson mentioned, Campbell was with the Bengals as the backup last season, but he's retired now and doesn't appear to be an option for Cincinnati. Many teams have tried to sway him out of retirement this season without success. The Bengals and Ravens were also among teams who tried to sign Johnson in the offseason and failed at that point to do so as well.
Mallett, who opened the season with the Houston Texans, has been a free agent for the past month after being waived due to missing a team flight during the team's Week 7 trip to face the Miami Dolphins. It was the second reported time this season Mallett was late after he missed a training camp practice due to oversleeping. There have been other reported personal issues with Mallett as well.
Originally drafted by the New England Patriots in the third round out of Arkansas in the 2011 NFL Draft, Mallett has completed 120 of 226 career passes (53.1 percent) for 1,187 yards (5.25 yards per attempt) with five touchdowns vs seven interceptions in 13 career games (6 starts). With not even a full season of starts under his belt and at only 27 years of age, Mallett probably has the highest ceiling of any free agent passer, but his desire to reach said ceiling doesn't appear to be where it needs to.
As for Ponder, the former seventh-overall pick by the Vikings in 2011 out of Florida State, has spent time with the Oakland Raiders and Denver Broncos this season after playing his first four seasons in Minnesota. In 38 career games played (36 starts), Ponder has completed 632 of 1,057 passes (59.8 percent) for 6,658 yards (6.3 yards per attempt) with 38 touchdowns vs 36 interceptions. He's also taken 95 career sacks and 20 fumbles (11 lost).
After his career in Minnesota ended with the rise of Teddy Bridgewater, Ponder signed with the Raiders this offseason on a one-year contract that included a $1.5 million signing bonus. However, Ponder would be waived during final roster cuts as Oakland liked Matt McGloin more as their backup behind starter Derek Carr.
Once Ponder was cut, he eventually signed with the Denver Broncos to be the third-string quarterback while Peyton Manning was out with a foot injury. However, Ponder was waived last week as Manning inches closer toward a return.
As it stands, Ponder and Mallett are probably the best free agent options right now for the Bengals if they choose to sign one. There's also Keith Wenning sitting on the practice squad, but the Bengals probably want someone with more experience to help AJ McCarron adjust to his starting role.
With the first pre-49ers practice on Wednesday, we should expect to see another quarterback on the 53-man roster by Tuesday night. That way, he'll have a full week of practice under his belt with the Bengals, in case McCarron gets injured and the new quarterback has to play in Sunday's game in San Francisco.