Some interesting discussions are happening this NFL offseason, most fraught with drama. Quarterback Andy Dalton potentially splitting from the Cincinnati Bengals, intriguingly, is not on that list.
The 2011 draft class QB has given his best years to Cincinnati. The team has a first overall pick in their pocket, with some interesting QB candidates in play. With the Dalton era defined by struggles, is it time to move on?
How a weak Bengals team undermined Andy Dalton
Andy Dalton is not the quarterback an ailing organization like the Bengals needs.
It wasn’t always this way. Dalton threw for over 3,000 yards for his first three seasons, one of only 10 QBs to do so. It’s a short list that includes names like Cam Newton, Peyton Manning, and Andrew Luck.
The problem is, he didn’t develop much past that peak, as great QBs tend to. He peaked at 4,293 passing yards, at a time when a new class of fresh-faced QBs regularly surpasses that kind of performance.
With an 87.4 passer rating, it’s impossible to call Andy Dalton a bad QB. It’s tough to even make a case that he doesn’t have a place as a starter somewhere. The problem is, the three-time Pro Bowler is a 32-year-old trending downward.
Mentally, he could be a good guide for up-and-coming fresh faces. But as a player, he clearly isn’t the superstar QB that any serious Super Bowl contending team needs.
And the Bengals have a first overall pick to consider.
The case for letting Dalton walk
The main reason to send Dalton on his way is to grab the best new QB possible. It would be a vote of confidence for the future of the franchise, at the sacrifice of a longtime steady hand.
The team is at a nadir. They went from a dismal 6-10 result in 2018 to a downright embarrassing 2-14 run in 2019. That’s well below the threshold where fans have patience with a struggling team. It’s disaster territory.
There’s also the matter of Dalton’s contract. He has no guaranteed money in the final year. That’s $17.7 million the Bengals would save. Meanwhile, Dalton lands on the free market, where he could potentially sign an even bigger offer elsewhere. The original six-year deal he signed was widely seen as a bargain within a couple of years of his solid play.
It’s a lot like the two parties would be doing each other a favor by going their separate ways. Andy Dalton’s career QB rating is tied for 12th among active players. He’d be a good fit on a team that isn’t in the midst of a rebuild.
The problem is, do fans want to see Dalton go in the first place?
Is Joe Burrow worth sending a fan-favorite QB packing?
It’s hard to imagine Bengals fans would push back too much on decisions meant to get them better results. But Dalton has an emotional connection with Cincinnati that might lead to a difficult break.
The organization recognizes that, which is why they haven’t committed to a decision yet. The intention is to do right by Dalton, as recognition to his great service to the team and the greater Cincinnati area over the years.
It’s a unique situation. In the middle of an objectively horrible season, fans were dismayed to see Dalton benched. They responded by donating record amounts to his charitable foundation.
The upside would be using the pick in the way most observers expect — championship-winning LSU QB Joe Burrow. Fresh off that big win against Clemson, Burrow would be a potential first-round pick for any team. But in this case, there’s a bonus — he’s an Ohio boy.
If Dalton goes packing, it should all work out as long as the Bengals handle the situation with respect. There’s a few million dollars more space to work with at a crucial stage of their rebuild. And fans of Dalton’s gracious relationship with locals get a different guy with Ohio ties instead.
So maybe it’s time for Andy Dalton to ply his trade elsewhere. And perhaps it won’t be such a bad thing for most people with stakes in the Bengals’ future.