The heaviest of critics have coined the Cincinnati Bengals as being in a state of "quarterback purgatory" over the past few years. While the knock is usually reserved for teams that have never-ending carousels at the position or use a variety of short-term journeymen, Cincinnati has the NFL media's favorite whipping boy at the helm of their squad.
Being in "quarterback" purgatory" for Cincinnati with Andy Dalton is more the inference that they have a quarterback good enough to get them to the postseason, but one who has yet to get them a win. In his first four years as a pro with the Bengals, this has been the case with four straight postseason appearances.
A lot has been made about Dalton's play in those games, and rightfully so, but all four losses were total team collapses. We won't re-hash the painful history, but a lot of blame is to be passed around for their recent 0-4 playoff drought. It's because of this record in the postseason that the Bengals skillfully crafted Dalton's 2014 contract extension to further motivate him to succeed in the postseason. The deal is essentially a six-year contract for $96 million, having the potential to get up to $114 million should Dalton reach certain milestones.
With Dalton having easily the best season of his career to the tune of 23 touchdowns against just six interceptions in 11 games, the incentives installed in his extension have to seem so close in grasp. Joel Corry, a former sports agent now with CBS Sports, recently relayed some of the figures Dalton stands to make should he finally succeed in January.
The six-year, $96 million contract extension Dalton signed in 2014 had $18 million of base salary escalators tied to playoff performance that could have increased the overall value of the deal to $114 million. $15 million can still be earned.
Eighty percent or more regular season offensive playtime and reaching the divisional playoffs with at least 80 percent offensive playtime in any prior playoff games in that season increases the base salaries in the rest of his contract each by $1 million. Another $500,000 is added for reaching the conference championship game if those same playtime requirements are met. It becomes a $3 million per season escalation with a Super Bowl win and the requisite playtime.
The Bengals getting a bye for the wild card playoff round has added significance for Dalton. Postseason playtime or Dalton's first playoff win wouldn't be required for his 2016 through 2020 base salaries to increase by $1 million to push the average of his deal to $16,833,333 million per year. Any part of the escalator that isn't earned this season will be available in the remaining contract years.
Now, Dalton seems to be a pretty driven guy as it is, but with a young child and critics waiting to be the first to yell "Told you so!", perhaps No. 14 will be ensuring a different path is taken when the calendar turns to 2016. Aside from the written and verbal kudos that will be given by doing so, he'll also feel the effects in his bank account.
On another interesting note unrelated to Dalton, Corry relayed an interesting story from his early career as an agent. He at one point represented both Jimmy Smith and Jack Del Rio when both were with the Jacksonville Jaguars and contacted the head coach to make sure Smith was in the game plan as the season wound down, ensuring the wide receiver would get some bonuses laid out in his contract. Interesting.
We've heard stories about agents meddling with college players and obviously being catalysts for player holdouts in the NFL, but not many stories of these under-the-table, wink-and-a-nod types of understandings between two parties with very different interests. Obviously, it's unknown just how prevalent a practice like that is in today's NFL, but it's likely still occurring at least somewhat-regularly. Money is still king in the world of sports.