Andy Dalton and the Bengals have been synonymous for nine seasons now. Ever since the team took him in the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft. There have been plenty of ups and downs, but it seems like 2019 was the last season that Dalton will be slotted as the starter in Cincinnati.
Many experts and fans expect the Bengals to select LSU quarterback Joe Burrow with the first overall pick in next week’s draft. That means there is a very strong chance that Burrow will be taking Dalton’s job almost immediately. That has led to speculation of Cincinnati trying to shop Dalton, and get him to a situation and team where he can still play. The Bengals’ director of player personnel, Duke Tobin, even stated early in the offseason that they wanted to do the right thing for their veteran quarterback. Free agency has passed, and there aren’t many places left on the quarterback carousel, but still Dalton remains in Cincinnati. The Bengals’ quarterback spoke with Michael Silver of NFL.com about how he is currently feeling.
“I truly believe they want what’s best for me, but I understand it’s a business, and you know how that goes,” Dalton said. “With the first pick, if they take a quarterback like everyone expects, that could trigger something. There’s even a scenario where I go back there.”
The idea that Dalton thinks he can come back is interesting. Currently, he will be carrying a cap hit of roughly $17.7 million into 2020. That is something the Bengals can get rid of without any dead cap by just releasing him. It is very rare that a team can save that much by getting rid of a player they are already replacing anyway. That cap relief would also help the team make room for rookie contracts after an unusually active free agency.
The scenario in which Dalton stays would have to be accompanied by him either willingly restructuring his contract, or the team making other corresponding moves to create cap space.
What is even more surprising about all of this is that Dalton is even entertaining the idea. After being benched in 2019, the veteran quarterback was very vocal about his frustration over the move. Maybe he understands that showing he can be a willing backup would be valuable to hit the 2021 free agent quarterback market as a possible bridge quarterback?
Dalton does seem to have a rare instance of power over the team where he could refuse to restructure his contract, which would likely trigger his release whenever it gets to that point. At this point it seems to be up to him whether he wants to stay or not if the Bengals can’t find a trade partner during the draft.
If Dalton were to stay, he would actually be a very valuable asset for Burrow. After all, Dalton went through his rookie season on an abbreviated training camp following the lockout prior to the season.
“If you went back and looked at those first preseason games, it was pretty ugly,” Dalton recalled. “It might not have looked like we were gonna make the playoffs. But we started hitting our stride late in the year, and shoot, I even made it to the Pro Bowl. So yeah, I’ve experienced the no-offseason thing. That was a whirlwind of a year.”
His ability to talk with Burrow about some of the challenges he would be facing could be invaluable for Cincinnati heading into 2020.
It is good to see that Dalton doesn’t appear to be holding a grudge, and that we may see him back on the team in 2020. It still feels like the much more likely scenario is that he is somewhere else, but at least he isn’t burning any bridges at this point.