A few weeks ago, the Bengals added Terrelle Pryor to their quarterback mix and most fans didn't believe there was much to the signing - myself included. After all, Pryor is the third, maybe fourth quarterback on the depth chart and the Bengals haven't kept a third quarterback on the active roster since Andy Dalton was taken in the 2nd round of the 2011 draft. In fact, the last time the Bengals had three quarterbacks on the active roster was 2010 when Dan LeFevour joined the Palmer brothers in Paul Brown Stadium’s quarterbacks' room. However, the more I think about this signing, the more I like it and the more I believe Pryor not only makes the team, but is active on game days. In fact, he may even see some playing time on Sundays. The reasons are four-fold:
1. The new PAT rules:
With the new PAT rules, a big athletic quarterback like Pryor can find a niche on a team by running two-point conversion plays. I believe this is why Chip Kelly signed Tim Tebow. Bengals fans know all too well that 32-yard field goals are no "gimme" with Mike Nugent, making the two-point attempt from the 2-yard line more appealing. While no one with half a brain will argue Pryor is a better quarterback than Dalton, given his size and speed, he is more dangerous and harder to stop from the 2-yard line than Dalton. When the Bengals elect to go for two, imagine a two tight end set where Jake Fisher and Cedric Ogbeuhi are the tight ends, Domata Peko is at fullback, Jeremy Hill is at running back and Terrelle Pryor is behind center. That is a power package that should be able to score from the 2-yard line more often than they fail.
"Potential" gets people fired and makes fans angry, and no one despises the term more than I... But, there is a difference between a guy having potential on a team relying on him (i.e. if Pryor was elected the starter), and having potential with no risk (i.e. Pryor being a third string quarterback). Regardless of what you think of Pryor's quarterback skills and discounted tattoos, you cannot deny that he is an athletic talent, worth a chance as a third string quarterback (or potential backup). At 6'4", 233 pounds, Pryor has a cannon arm and 4.3 speed, He has size and athletic ability that cannot be taught and that Dalton and AJ McCarron simply don't have - and never will. Pryor is just 25-years-old, has been the leader of a top college program and if the Bengals think they can develop him, his potential is worth a roster spot.
3. Roster versatility
Since the NFL changed the third/emergency quarterback rule back in 2011, the Bengals have yet to keep a third quarterback and have elected to use the roster spot to build a stronger roster. But, with the versatility of the roster the Bengals have constructed, they can make room for a third quarterback without jeopardizing the other position groups. By drafting Fisher and Ogbuehi, two guys who can play guard and tackle, the Bengals could elect to go with one less lineman than they normally do because of the versatility of their top two draft picks. Another spot where the Bengals could pick up a roster spot is tight end. With Ryan Hewitt as a capable tight end, the Bengals could elect to go with just two tight ends and utilize Hewitt as the third tight end. The Bengals also have some versatility along the defensive line and secondary which could allow them to open up a spot for a third quarterback without jeopardizing their roster.
4. Uncertainty surrounding Andy Dalton
Get ready for it; the talk of Dalton and his contract isn't going to go away in 2015. I hear the groans of mentioning it, but it must be done. In 2014, much was made about Dalton's "big" contract extension, but it was much to do about nothing. Dalton's contract was essentially a two year extension with little to no ramifications if the Bengals elect to walk away after 2015. I doubt that would happen, but Dalton is 0-4 in the playoffs and has looked overwhelmed in all four of those losses. If there is any doubt inside Paul Brown Stadium as to Dalton's ability to lead the team to the Super Bowl - and how can't there be at this point - then taking a look at some insurance policies (McCarron and Pryor) is not a bad idea. Regardless of where you fall on Dalton, the fact of the matter is, he is good enough that the Bengals - with Dalton as the starting quarterback – and the Bengals are not going to be in position to draft a top tier quarterback any time soon. And, you aren't going to find a free agent quarterback that is a better option. As a result, the only way the Bengals are going to find a quarterback who may allow them to walk away from Dalton's contract will be to develop a project quarterback like McCarron or Pryor and see if they can find lightning in a bottle. If they do, walking away from Dalton would make sense. If they don't, no harm, no foul.