Is Andy Dalton under pressure to perform in 2015?
Some would say yes because of his lack of postseason success (0-4) and clear limitations. Others would also say yes due to the costliness of his contract. Dalton was given a six-year, $96 million deal in 2014 that will see him get paid an average of $16 million per year until 2021.
Both of those reasons are why Ian Wharton of Bleacher Report believes Dalton is one of several QBs under intense pressure to perform in 2015. Wharton also notes Dalton is under pressure because of his contract, which the Bengals can effectively rid themselves of in 2016.
Dalton's limitations reading a defense and creating big plays has held the Bengals back every postseason. The team has been unable to overcome his weaknesses, and they reduced his passing attempts by 105 in 2014 in hopes the roster would carry him.
Dalton's mammoth $96 million contract can be escaped after this season for a $7.2 million cap hit, or he can be designated as a June 1 cut to save about $73 million from 2016-2020, per Over The Cap. That's a decision the Bengals must think long and hard about.
Dalton's contract can seem 'mammoth' for how poorly he can perform at times. It also doesn't help that his average cap hit over the next five years is $14.8 million, per Spotrac. If the Bengals make it to the Divisional Round of the playoffs in 2016, that bumps his annual cap hit to $15.8 million.
Why is that significant? You simply don't see many NFL teams win a Super Bowl when they're paying their QBs $14+ million every year.
The stat shows NFL teams tend to win when they're paying their QB far less than what Dalton makes annually.
The good news: Dalton's cap hit in 2015 is just $9.6 million, which is fairly close to that $6.9 million average that Super Bowl-winning QBs have the year they win the title.
It also helps that there is precedent for a non-elite QB with no postseason success to break through and win a title while having a big cap hit.
Eli Manning entered 2007 with an 0-2 postseason mark and a career 1:2 touchdown-to-interception ratio while having an, $11.7 million cap hit. Manning led an 8-8 Giants team to a Super Bowl win that year, and he's improved his TD-to-INT ratio to 1:5 from 2008-2014. For comparison, Dalton has a 1:5 TD-to-INT ratio since 2011. Manning also had a $14.1 million cap hit when New York won the Super Bowl again in 2012.
No one is comparing the talents of both QBs. Manning clearly tops Dalton there, but it does show developments can still be made by NFL QBs as late as five or more years into their careers, while having a big cap hit.
What does all of this mean?
It's simple really. If Dalton can consistently perform at a high level and show even slight improvements in 2015, he should be kept by the team in 2016.
However, if he continues to regress as he did last year, it may be time for Cincinnati to pull the plug.