Teddy Bridgewater is not coming to Cincinnati in 2018.
This isn’t some insider newsflash (I’m not an insider, nor a journalist) nor a declaration based on any specific report from Paul Brown Stadium.
Cincinnati doesn’t value backup quarterbacks enough to sacrifice a high-value draft pick and the team won’t pay much to bring in a veteran. On top of all that, the Bengals will actively avoid anything that could lead to a quarterback controversy (or the appearance of one).
The cost to acquire Bridgewater might be too much.
According to recent reports, it would require a “significant deal” for the Jets to move Bridgewater. During his initial report on Monday, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport said New York is open to trading him, but they’re also satisfied in keeping him as a backup. We’re not sure what “significant deal” translates to. Jets beat writer Manish Mehta writes that two teams have “expressed interest in trading” for Bridgetwater, but those teams weren’t identified nor is an actual offer on the table.
My understanding is that many teams have inquired about Bridgewater — and that the Jets have made it abundantly clear that they are open for business and would like to reduce their quarterback surplus — but Gang Green is still waiting for a reasonable offer.
To get an idea of how much it could cost, the Kansas City Chiefs shipped quarterback Alex Smith, a Pro Bowl quarterback in the last two seasons, to Washington for a third-round pick. Cleveland also gave Buffalo a third rounder for quarterback Tyrod Taylor. Taylor and Smith are projected as starters in 2018. Would New York accept a five or sixth round pick for Bridgewater? Do you really believe that based on the language reporters are using right now? It’ll likely cost more than that.
Bridgewater wouldn’t be a starter in Cincinnati. In addition, New York has zero incentive to move Bridgewater and any deal they accept would be icing on the proverbial cake. Maybe they’d take a third rounder. Is a backup quarterback worth that price? Cincinnati probably doesn’t think so.
The Bengals don’t want a quarterback controversy.
Quarterback Andy Dalton is their guy.
Disregard any scenario in your consciousness — that doesn’t include “injury” — where Dalton is not starting for the Cincinnati Bengals through 2020 (the final season of his current contract).
If a player like Bridgewater — with a 28-22 touchdown to interception ratio in his first two seasons with Minnesota — joins the Bengals, we’ll face another migraine-inducing division among the same Bengals fans that debated AJ McCarron vs. Andy Dalton. This will happen. While discussions are healthy, one could argue that the team’s desire to avoid such a scenario could rule their decision-making process. It sounds silly, but would you really rule it out?
Dalton is a quality quarterback. He’s mounting an assault on franchise records, gone to three Pro Bowls as an alternate (replacing Tom Brady in 2011 and 2016, and Aaron Rodgers in 2014), was the quarterback of a team that qualified for five consecutive postseasons, and is an all-around character guy (to many of us, that’s important).
Would Bridgewater improve the position or would it be a zero-sum game? Don’t get me wrong, Bridgewater could be a satisfactory backup, but that isn’t the question.
Cincinnati never places value on veteran backup quarterbacks.
When Carson Palmer was selected first overall 15 years ago (Jesus), the Bengals paired him with veteran Jon Kitna — who was already in Cincinnati two years prior to Palmer’s arrival. After Kitna departed for Detroit in 2006, Cincinnati applied a half-hearted approach to paying quality backups. During Palmer’s reign, they surrounded him with veterans, like Doug Johnson, Anthony Wright, and J.T. O’Sullivan, and a handful of quarterbacks to develop, like Jeff Rowe and Jordan Palmer. They traded for Ryan Fitzpatrick in 2007, but he signed a three-year deal with Buffalo worth $8 million after 2008.
It’s been the same with Dalton. Cincinnati needed a veteran to help guide Dalton, who was being thrown into the fire as a rookie during the 2011 owner’s lockout. They signed Bruce Gradkowski, who stuck around for two years, and then Josh Johnson and Jason Campbell filled the void in 2013 and 2014 respectively.
Thankfully Dalton stayed healthy.
It’s been clear for 15 years (again, Jesus) that Cincinnati has never fiscally invested in a backup quarterback, plucking low-tier free agents. Do you think the Bengals would take on Bridgewater’s salary? He has a $6 million cap hit this year.
The Bengals used a fifth-round selection on Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron in 2014 and, for the first time in 15 years, the team’s backup situation stabilized.
Unfortunately, McCarron left for Buffalo after four years, forcing the Bengals to find a new backup. They signed Matt Barkley, used a seventh-round pick on Logan Woodside, and kept a seat warm for third-year quarterback Jeff Driskel (sixth-round pick by the 49ers in 2016). After one preseason game, Barkley was demoted to No. 3 with Driskel, who’s been productive during the preseason, topping him.
If reports about a “significant deal” being necessary to obtain Bridgewater are true, the Bengals aren’t going to use a high-value draft pick on a backup quarterback, while also absorbing his $5 million salary and $6 million cap number. The Bengals don’t put much stock into backup quarterbacks. Regardless of your opinion on the Bengals’ quarterback depth, they’ll stick to their own advice. And it’s clear, they value Dalton too much to introduce any variables that may cause a quarterback controversy in Cincinnati.