After three seasons in the NFL, Andy Dalton is now entering the final year of his rookie contract, placing the Bengals in the midst of a tough decision: Should Dalton be given an extension now, a new contract later or simply be allowed to walk away at the end of the season?
The last year of a player’s contract is always like a game of chicken for everyone involved. If Dalton goes on to have a great year, the Bengals will wish they had extended him this offseason when his value was at the lowest. On the other hand, if Cincinnati hands their quarterback a big-time extension now, and he rewards them with a flop of a season, they’ll be left trying to dig themselves out of a financial hole.
The real problem is that Dalton has been very erratic over the beginning of his career. While there have been flashes of greatness, there have also been countless moments that left Bengals fans pulling their hair out.
Over the course of the last three seasons, Dalton has improved his touchdowns, yardage total, quarterback rating and team record each year. At the same time, his interceptions have gone up as well. Nonetheless, a stat line of 4,293 yards on 62 percent passing, 33 touchdowns and 20 interceptions, while leading Cincinnati to a 11-5 record and a division title, is nothing to scoff at.
For a span of three weeks last season, the “Red Rifle” torched the league, throwing for over 300 yards and three touchdowns in three straight games. At the time, it looked as though the light had finally gone off in Dalton’s head, and he was on his way to becoming an elite quarterback. Then, immediately afterwards, Dalton went through a stretch of four games where he threw nine interceptions and only six touchdowns.
Similarly, the largest inconsistency seen with Dalton is in his playoff performances. Though Dalton has led Cincinnati to the playoffs three years in a row, which has never been done before in Bengals history, he has not won a single game. In fact, until last year, he hadn’t thrown a single touchdown.
All that being said, it is looking as though the Bengals are strongly considering giving an extension to their quarterback this offseason.
“The representatives from his side (Dalton’s) and our team will get together and try to discuss something,” said Marvin Lewis. “We feel good about what Andy has done the past three seasons and we have to continue to help him continue to play better.”
Right now, the Bengals have a Super Bowl roster. Their defense is extremely talented, and their offense is full of playmakers. The question now becomes whether the team’s front office believes Dalton is the leader who will put them over the top, or the weight which will hold them back.
So far, with his playoff disasters, there is absolutely no reason to be confident that Dalton is an elite quarterback. At worst, Dalton should be allowed to play out the final year of his contract before resigning him at whatever value he earns for himself. The biggest mistake the Bengals could make would be to tie themselves down to a quarterback who can’t get it done in the playoffs.
For Bengals fans, their best hope is that Dalton can have a year like Joe Flacco did when he won the Super Bowl. Flacco was facing very similar questions entering the final year of his deal, and he ended up rewarding the city of Baltimore with a championship. The difference was that Flacco had at least already won some playoff games.
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