One thing the Cincinnati Bengals haven't had to worry about since 2011 is the backup quarterback position. Initially, Bruce Gradkowski was signed to backup Dalton in 2011 because of his comfort level in the Gruden offensive system, be it from Jon or Jay. Since then, a few other youngsters and veterans have assumed the role. Before AJ McCarron, Josh Johnson, John Skelton and Jason Campbell all held the title.
Dalton has had his share of critics in his five-year NFL career, but two positives on his resume can't be denied: regular season stats and wins, as well as his ability to stay healthy. Since 2011, Dalton only missed one half of football because of injury and it was in his first start against the Browns in the opener of his rookie season. He and the Bengals got an unlucky break (pardon the pun) last Sunday when the veteran quarterback fractured his thumb against the Steelers.
Cincinnati was in scramble mode to find a suitable backup to McCarron and initial reports had them looking at Ryan Mallett and Christian Ponder before settling on the promotion of Keith Wenning, a player on their Practice Squad.
What hasn't been made fully-known locally is that the Bengals wanted to bring another raw, talented signal-caller to their roster before deciding on Wenning. According to The Miami Herald, Cincinnati attempted to yank project quarterback Logan Thomas from the Dolphins' Practice Squad. Miami didn't want to lose Thomas and promoted him to their 53-man roster to keep him for the foreseeable future.
There's a lot to like about Thomas, who has almost every physical attribute scouts fawn over. He is huge at 6'6", 250 pounds, and has a cannon of an arm--obviously all things Bengals owner Mike Brown covets out of his quarterbacks. Thomas also had some athletic ability in the form of scrambling and elusiveness adding to his repertoire.
Of course, the big knock on Thomas was his raw nature as a pro, mostly pointed to his supposed inability to grasp anything complex in offensive schemes. Known quarterback guru and current Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians took a chance on Thomas in the fourth round of the 2014 NFL Draft as a hopeful grooming project to starter Carson Palmer.
Arians and the Cardinals experienced issues at the position last year when Palmer went down with a knee injury. Though Arizona would go on to make the playoffs, Thomas was part of a carousel at the position, but didn't show enough to stick with the team. True to his boom-or-bust label, Thomas only had one completion in nine attempts, but said completion was an 81-yard touchdown pass. Thomas then landed with Miami after being cast off from the Cardinals.
There are a lot of parallels here that make the Bengals' supposed interest in Thomas very logical. Brown likes the big, strong-armed quarterbacks like Palmer (AKA the one who got away), and was even rumored to push for Mallett in the 2011 draft over Dalton. While Mallett has the physical traits teams love, his off-field antics have turned some off, though Baltimore just took a chance on him this week.
As if that wasn't oddly reminiscent enough, the NFC West/Cincinnati Bengals connection continues to run strong. Both the San Francisco 49ers and the Cardinals have coveted former Bengals players in recent seasons, with some of the sentiment being reciprocated by the Bengals. Arians is familiar with the Bengals and their renaissance under Marvin Lewis because of his time as the Pittsburgh Steelers' offensive coordinator.
Currently, Palmer, Frostee Rucker and Jermaine Gresham are on Arizona's active roster, while current Cincinnati offensive lineman Eric Winston was once a Cardinal. Throw in the fact that Arians pursued linebacker Rey Maualuga back in 2013 and the circle is complete. The Bengals' pursuit of Thomas just adds to it.
While the Dolphins and Bengals didn't face off this season, they did meet the Cardinals in the desert just before Thanksgiving in a shootout. Cincinnati lost to the tune of 34-31, but a different kind of history was written. Regardless, one more asterisk in the relationship between the two squads was avoided with Miami's decision to hang on to the project quarterback.