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Andy Dalton will start and AJ McCarron will compete (for the backup role)

Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton will start for the Cincinnati Bengals in 2015. Everything after that is a bit of a mystery, beginning with AJ McCarron.

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Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

No, not this year.

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback AJ McCarron has virtually no shot at unseating Andy Dalton, and the $9.6 million cap number that he comes with, as the team's starting quarterback. NOTE: It's cute if you suggest that Dalton could be demoted to second position this year but stay on the team. If there's a scenario where McCarron replaces Andy Dalton this year, Dalton isn't staying. It's just that, save for traumatic physical injuries and sudden retirement plans, that scenario doesn't exist.

Why is this even a conversation? This story from the mothership earlier this month:

The Bengals seem to be encouraged with the state of McCarron’s throwing shoulder, as well as his approach to the offseason that includes three scheduled visits with Dr. Tom House, the noted quarterback guru working at USC.

Bengals president Mike Brown reiterated that point during the league meetings from Arizona:

"All paths have cleared for AJ McCarron to take over the backup quarterback role," writes the Cincinnati Enquirer. "They want him to be the guy. This will be an important offseason program for the most discussed fifth-round pick in Bengals history. If he can show a grasp of the offense, production, health and ability, he'll be one injury away from the starter. If he can't, they'll shop for a veteran to slip into the backup role as Jason Campbell did last year."

A bit, late... no?

"AJ McCarron, last year’s fifth-round pick, is going to get the chance to be quarterback Andy Dalton’s backup and Brown indicated the third quarterback could come via another draft pick," writes

Chance to be the team's backup... got it. Shouldn't the Bengals, at least, sign a veteran quarterback to compete for the backup position? There won't be much out there when the team looks in July for another veteran. Then again, Jason Campbell will probably be there -- and the "win-now" Bengals will celebrate that measure of luck.

Then there was the effortless praise coming from the team:

"I will tell you that we are excited about him for the future," Lewis said at the NFL Scouting Combine last month. "I tried to do things in practice during the week to get AJ opportunities to do real football so he wasn't just working against our defense. I wanted him to have an opportunity to work within the game plan and I think he has a great mind for football. We think he has the ability to be a good NFL quarterback and passer. Obviously he has the competition nature, the makeup of guys that have been very productive in the NFL. So I am excited about AJ and his future."

There are some that are hijacking these comments and twisting them into an unlikely opportunity for McCarron to replace Dalton this year. To a much lesser degree, there is sentiment from some that it should happen, if only because our confidence and trust in Dalton during big games has been waning over a period of time.

"Hey Andy Dalton has never won a playoff game," says the frustrated fan. But neither has A.J. Green, who is more likely to catch a carton of milk with his picture on it than score a game-winning postseason touchdown. But, neither has Vontaze Burfict, whose future (in terms of replicating his production in 2012 and 2013) appears in doubt -- even though we're electing to ignore how serious Burfict's injuries could be. Neither has Geno Atkins, Carlos Dunlap, Andrew Whitworth, the list goes on.

"So we should give McCarron a shot," continues the frustrated Bengals fan. But, why? McCarron, who spent most of the year rehabilitating an injured shoulder, is not unlike new software that's being shipped into the wild. We don't know how the software will react to differing variables and you just know that there will be a stream of patches to fix the problems that developers didn't consider.

You don't know how it will react until you release it. True. On the other hand, if you have a window to win-now, step one doesn't include replacing your $100 million quarterback on a whim with a guy who hasn't thrown an NFL pass... even during a preseason game.

Then compete!

"There's no time for that," Lewis said. "We have no problem with Andy Dalton as our quarterback. We don't have time to waste time with another quarterback. The quarterback competition: Where has it worked? It doesn't get you wins." Honestly, I think Lewis is looking at the Cleveland Browns pro football reference page.

Either way, here's what we've learned:

1) Andy Dalton is the starter;
2) AJ McCarron will have a chance to be the team's primary backup;
3) A third-string quarterback could be acquired via the NFL draft;
4) The team could still sign a veteran quarterback if McCarron stumbles.