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Andy Dalton contract value continues to shine for Bengals

Dalton continues to be one of, if not the best value quarterback in the NFL.

NFL: Miami Dolphins at Cincinnati Bengals Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

The Cincinnati Bengals are getting great value when it comes to their franchise quarterback.

That’s a statement few teams in the NFL can say. This has become a league where even below-average quarterbacks can trick teams into giving them contracts topping $15 million annually. Brock Osweiler is the most obvious to come to mind, as he’s making $18 million annually from a deal signed with the Texans. But Osweiler was so bad in the first year of his new deal that he’s since been benched and traded to the Browns.

Not so with Dalton. When he signed his six-year, $96 million contract extension in 2014, most viewed it as overpaying for a quarterback who had been up and down through his first three seasons. However, the Bengals were believers, and they’ve been rewarded as Dalton has continued to improve and become a true franchise passer.

What makes Dalton even more special is he’s easily the best value quarterback in the NFL in terms of veterans who have signed new deals following their rookie contracts. Entering 2017, Dalton’s contract pays him an average of just $16 million.

That seems like a large number, but in today’s pass-happy NFL, quarterbacks get paid more than any other position. That average is actually the 20th-highest of any quarterback heading into the 2017 NFL season, according to Spotrac.

What makes that even more amazing is seeing some of the quarterbacks who have a higher average salary than Dalton. That includes Osweiler ($18M), Sam Bradford ($18M), Alex Smith ($17M), Matthew Stafford ($17.66) and Ryan Tannehill ($19.25M). You could make a good argument for Dalton being better than most of them, yet their teams were pressured into paying them more, whereas the Bengals were patient and got Dalton signed to a very team-friendly deal.

Heck, just looking at some of the names right behind Dalton shows the value of his deal. Guys like Mike Glennon ($15M) and Tyrod Taylor ($15.25) have been treading the line between being a starter and backup. It won’t be surprised to see if they find themselves on the bench again in 2017, even though they’re making almost as much as Dalton.

Making Dalton’s deal even more favorable for the Bengals is they could cut Dalton in 2018 and only have $2.4 million in dead cap. Then in 2019, the Bengals can cut Dalton and not have any dead cap in those final two years of his deal.

That’s not happening, but the fact that Cincinnati has that option shows just how good of a contract this is for them. Had they given Dalton this big extension and he had an Osweiler-like collapse, the Bengals wouldn’t have had as much trouble getting rid of Dalton as Houston did, which included giving up a second-round draft pick.

Dalton did the complete opposite and continued to improve his game, as well as have a 2015 season that had him contending for NFL MVP honors before his thumb injury. That’s the kind of season Dalton should have in 2017 if all of his weapons stay on the field and off the rehab field. And he’ll do so while not hamstringing the Bengals cap-wise.