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Bengals Offseason Positional Outlook: Quarterbacks

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After a few weeks of non-stop draft and free agency talk, we resume our offseason positional outlooks and take a look at the Bengals "hot button" topic, quarterback.

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

2014 Depth Chart

Starter: Andy Dalton

Backup: Jason Campbell

PS: AJ McCarron

2014 Recap:

There is no denying that Andy Dalton did not have a great year in 2014 and coming off the heels of his recent contract extension, the Dalton hate was at an all-time high. However, there is a silver lining - a lining that will immediately have me labeled a Dalton apologist – injuries. Dalton played all of 2014 without two of his top three receiving threats (Marvin Jones and Tyler Eifert) and the Bengals simply did not have players capable of filling their shoes. As a result, Dalton had a down year. Jason Campbell was a non-factor and AJ McCarron spent most of the season soft tossing a Nerf Turbo football with a one-legged Marvin Jones.

2015 Outlook:

Starter: Andy Dalton

The Dalton haters had their pitch forks out in 2014 and in some respects, understandably so. During a year in which Dalton signed a big contract with high expectations, he laid a proverbial dud of a season with career lows in yards and touchdowns. However, he did have a career high in completion percentage, 3,398 yards, 19 touchdowns, a 55.2 QBR and an 83.5 rating. All that, despite missing two of his top three receiving threats for essentially the entire season, and with A.J. Green out for basically five games. Translation? Dalton played approximately one third of the season without his top three receiving targets. Take away any quarterbacks top three targets and their numbers will plummet. For example, take Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders and Julius Thomas away from Manning and see what happens to his numbers. Given what he was missing, his numbers actually aren't too bad.

Don’t get me wrong, I am concerned about Dalton and his numbers in 2014, but unlike most, I am willing to give him a mulligan as a result of the injuries. Heck, at times he was working with Mohamed Sanu as his top receiver, Greg Little as his number two, Rex Burkhead as his slot guy and Kevin Brock as his tight end. Given a full bag of weapons in 2015, I would expect Dalton to rebound in his fifth season and have 4,000 yards and 25-28 touchdowns.

Backup: Jason Campbell

Campbell supplied the Bengals with a veteran backup, familiar with Hue Jackson’s offense. But, he proved in the preseason why he was a backup and was not going to put any pressure on Dalton. Initially, I thought Campbell would be back in 2015, but as the offseason drags on and he is still unsigned, I am beginning to believe more and more the Bengals will not re-sign Campbell and enter training camp with AJ McCarron as Dalton’s backup.

PS: AJ McCarron

McCarron basically had a red shirt year as a rookie and as such, I didn’t think the Bengals would be comfortable with him being Dalton’s backup in 2015. However, with Campbell still unsigned, it is starting to look more and more like McCarron will get a chance to be Dalton’s primary backup – and therefore the immediate "apple" in the eyes of many Bengals fans.

Outside Competition

2015 Positional Free Agency Outlook

It ain’t happening. If you are one of the fans clamoring for the "veteran quarterback that can push/challenge Dalton," I ask you to run a Google search for 2015 NFL free agent quarterbacks. There may not be anyone out there who could challenge you and I, let alone Dalton.

2015 Positional Draft Outlook

With nine picks in the 2015 draft, I wouldn't rule out the possibility of a late draft pick on a developmental player to put on the practice squad, but if they do draft a quarterback, it won’t be before the 6th round.

General Roster Makeup: 2 on the 53-man roster; 1 on the practice squad

2015 Roster Prediction:

QBs (2): Dalton, McCarron

PS (1): Developmental player

2015 Positional Stock Outlook:

Stagnant

Dalton’s contract was constructed in a way which allows the Bengals to get out of the deal after the 2015 season without much of a penalty. So get ready for an offseason (and season) full of fans talking about how this is a "make or break" year for Dalton, or a "prove it" season. It isn't, and there are two reasons why: 1) with Dalton, the Bengals will never be bad enough to get a shot at a top rookie in the draft – at worst he can get them 7 wins; and 2) quality starting quarterbacks do not hit the free agent market – if you go shopping for quarterbacks in the free agent market, you get guys like Mark Sanchez or Josh McCown. So, whether you like it or not, Dalton is your starting quarterback for 2015 and the foreseeable future.