During the past two offseasons, the Cincinnati Bengals have been busy inking some of their young core players to long-term extensions. The deals for each of these players occurred before their contracts at the time of signing expired, allowing the players to focus on their on-field duties and not have to worry about their upcoming contractual situations.
Defensive tackle Geno Atkins, defensive end Carlos Dunlap, linebacker Vontaze Burfict and quarterback Andy Dalton all inked deals beyond their rookie contract, bringing them into the fold for the next handful of years. The most polarizing of the deals was the Dalton extension, given his (and the team's) regular season success, coupled with the postseason failures. Last offseason, Dalton signed a six-year, $96 million contract.
Now, there is a term gaining momentum throughout the NFL media, "The Dalton Line". The premise is that the Bengals' quarterback is the line in the sand for the minimum requirements of a quarterback to make his team competitive in today's NFL. Some believe it has merit, while others think it’s a bunch of malarkey.
Last week, the Miami Dolphins signed their quarterback Ryan Tannehill to a deal in the vein of Dalton's and Colin Kaepernick's 2014 deals. The deal is oddly reminiscent of Dalton's contract on multiple levels--most obviously being a six-year deal with a $95 million price tag. Also similar are the stages of the contract, with varying degrees of salary cap hits and penalties, if the team wants to bail themselves out of the contract.
Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports and Danny O'Neil of ESPN 710 Seattle, laid out the stages of Tannehill's deal:
Stage 1 (2015-16): This is a two-year agreement in which Tannehill will make $25 million. Most of that is guaranteed at the moment of signing. Remember, these are the two years Tannehill was already under contract for, but now, instead of making roughly $18 million he's going to get $25 million. That extra $7 million bought the team the option to evaluate Tannehill again after two seasons and walk away if it wants.
Stage 2 (2017): The Dolphins have the option to walk away from the deal after two years without future guarantees. Or they can exercise the option in March 2017 to guarantee Tannehill $14.5 million for the upcoming season, a rate that will be below your average starting quarterback in the NFL. If Tannehill makes it through three seasons of his current deal, he will have earned less than $40 million.
Stage 3 (2018-20): Here's where most of the money in Tannehill's deal is, and there's no guarantee he will ever earn it. None. In fact, it's likely the only way he earns it is if he continues to progress and develop as a quarterback. If he doesn't, the Dolphins can eject in any season after 2016.
Dalton is entering the last "team-friendly" year of his newish contract and like Tannehill's deal, the final years are the ones that truly cost a team. If the quarterback has really taken his team to the next level, the franchise won't hesitate to pay the hefty salaries. Otherwise, they can opt for another route.
Here is a comparison of some key stats between Dalton and Tannehill. Seeing as how Dalton has one more accrued season than Tannehill, we'll look at Dalton's stats through his first three years (2011-2013).
|Quarterback||Pass Yards||Pass TD||Rush Yards||Rush TD||INT||Rating||Wins||Playoff Appearances|