To call Andy Dalton overrated from a national perspective would be a clear overstatement. He gets just about as much hate on the internet and from the national media as an NFL quarterback can garner.
However, calling him overrated in how the Bengals value him may seem a little more reasonable. That's the case in Sports Illustrated's 2015 All-Overrated Team. This list was not based on how the media and fans players, but by how much their own teams value them.
With the Bengals paying Dalton $16 million per year, it might be fair to say his team is overrating him just a bit for a quarterback who has never won a playoff game.
The Bengals have already invested pretty heavily in Dalton, to the tune of a seven-year, $97.09 million contract extension with $17 million guaranteed in 2014. The deal is basically year-to-year, which says as much about the franchise's real hesitation regarding a quarterback who still struggles under pressure, is still average on third down, and still has major issues in the playoffs.
"Overrated" is a relative term, and perhaps the Bengals have over-managed their expectations of Dalton, but in the end, the result is the same: average play and the same old talk about Dalton ascending to the next level.
Perhaps one day, that will come true.
To be fair to the Bengals and Dalton, he has made noticeable improvements on different aspects of his game in each of his first four years in the NFL. And, he has made the playoffs in each of his four NFL seasons. If he continues to make even slight improvements this coming season, it could become a case where the Bengals are valuing Dalton, as well as paying him, exactly as they should be.
However, if he continues to only play well in the regular season but flounder in primetime and postseason games, everyone outside of Cincinnati will continue to think the Bengals are overrating Dalton.
As for who else the Bengals are overrating, Sports Illustrated believes nose tackle Domata Peko is also one of the league's most overrated players by their teams. Peko has been the Bengals' full-time starter while annually being paid like he's an upper-echelon lineman.
If you follow Pro Football Focus, they really don't like Peko, to be blunt. He was their 80th ranked DT in 2014 (out of 81 eligible NTs), their 66th ranked DT in 2013 (out of 69), their 70th ranked DT in 2012 (out of 85), and their 72nd ranked DT in 2011 (out of 88).
Simply put, Peko hasn't been someone who should be playing 700+ snaps on an annual basis, while also making upward of $5 million every year. That's why he too made SI's All-Overrated Team:
Peko was one of the NFL's most underrated defensive tackles for a long time, but the tide has sadly turned for the veteran. He had just one sack in 2014, and his run defense has been declining pretty steadily over the last few seasons. Perhaps the addition of a healthier Geno Atkins to that line can take some of the pressure away.
One other Bengal making the list was defensive end Michael Johnson, which is probably fair after his disastrous 2014 season with Tampa Bay.
Johnson was released from Tampa Bay after just one season, and he's back with a Bengals defensive line that put up the NFL's fewest sacks in 2014. He's been more of a pressure player over the last two years than a true sack artist. His 11.5-sack season in 2012 was an outlier, and one wonders what he's got left in the tank at age 28. The MCL sprain that will keep him out of the preseason doesn't help.
Still, Johnson may not be a great player outside of Cincinnati, but it's clear the Bengals know how to use him correctly and can make him a player worthy of the four-year, $20 million deal the team gave him this offseason.
Do you think the Bengals are overrating Dalton, Johnson and Peko?