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ESPN thinks the Bengals could part ways with Andy Dalton next offseason

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Dan Graziano ranks the Bengals 29th out of 32 in commitment to the quarterback.

NFL: Cleveland Browns at Cincinnati Bengals David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

With a brand new head coach and staff below him, Bengals’ position battles are most of what people will be watching in OTAs this summer.

Overshadowed by the news of some shakeups on the offensive line is the quarterback room in Cincinnati.

Most teams will spend more time and energy worrying about their quarterbacks than the Bengals. As long as Andy Dalton has been a Bengal, he’s been the undisputed starting quarterback. It’s hard to imagine anyone else starting under center for the Bengals.

Unless you are Dan Graziano of ESPN.

Graziano ranked all 32 teams in terms of how committed they are to their quarterbacks. The Bengals, according to Graziano, are ranked 20th.

Here’s what he said:

All of the guarantees in Dalton’s contract have long been paid, so his $16 million salary this year and his $17.5 million 2020 salary are NFL funny money. The contract was signed long enough ago that Cincinnati isn’t even carrying dead signing bonus money. The Bengals could cut Dalton today and not owe him another penny.

Obviously, they’re not going to do that, but the fourth-round pick of NC State’s Ryan Finley by a team that just hired a young, QB-focused coach is a mild eyebrow-raiser. If Finley shows enough development this season -- or if the Bengals bottom out and get a super-high pick in next year’s draft -- they could decide to show Dalton the door as soon as next offseason.

The Bengals did draft a quarterback in the fourth round, but it’s doubtful that the Bengals drafted him with the intention of replacing Dalton. Finley is a good quarterback, but it will take at least a year of development before he should even be considered to be the starter. Graziano’s scenario where Finley does well enough to replace Dalton is unlikely.

A more plausible scenario would be that the Bengals just let Dalton play out his contract and walk after 2020. That way, Finley gets plenty of time to prepare, or the Bengals could draft a new starter in the 2021 draft.

For the fun of the exercise, the Bengals could conceivably cut ties with Andy Dalton soon. But most teams are fairly committed to their respective quarterbacks, and the Bengals are no different.