CINCINNATI – Right now, a great question faces Mike Brown and the Bengals front office: what is to be done with quarterback Andy Dalton’s future?
The 26 year old is entering his fourth season in the league, and it will be his last in Cincinnati unless the two sides can come to agreement on a fair, equitable extension.
For about $1 million per season, the Bengals have got the production out of a quarterback who has led his team to three consecutive playoff berths. In the same span, only Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady have led their teams into the playoffs. The Packers and Patriots are paying $12 million and $13.8 million for their starting quarterbacks’ services, who have at least led their teams into the playoffs unlike Cutler, Bradford, and Romo.
The fact that Dalton has led the Bengals to the playoffs in his first three seasons puts him in league with passers such as Joe Flacco and Dan Marino. The problem is that Dalton hasn’t even won a solitary playoff game, which Flacco and Marino each did within their first two seasons. Still, as fellow quarterbacks from the ’11 class fall out of favor with their drafted teams, no one can deny that the Bengals have something special with Dalton. The Bengals just need to pick an option.
The first option is to give the situation a “wait and see” approach, akin to what Baltimore and Ozzie Newsome did with Joe Flacco in 2012. If Flacco bombed out, then the Ravens would have been free to find his replacement in free agency or the draft. Instead, Flacco had a phenomenal season, leading the Ravens to their second Super Bowl in franchise history. At that point, Baltimore was forced to pay Flacco, even to the point of losing some key pieces and veteran leadership. Now, the Ravens are paying out $120 million over six years to a quarterback on a mediocre team.
Another problem with the “wait and see” approach is other teams could set the market rate. Colin Kaepernick is set to make $20 million off of his impending contract extension. One of the reasons Chicago, Atlanta, and Dallas had to shell out $100 million for their one-playoff-win quarterbacks was because the Joe Flacco deal set the going rate for quarterbacks in the 2013 off-season. Now, if a club wants to extend their quarterback, the price has been set. With all due respect to Dalton, he is not a $20 million quarterback.
The second option is to pay Andy Dalton now. Obviously, Mike Brown wants to have a fair deal in place because this extension sets the tone for all the other deals Brown needs to get done, notably A.J. Green. If the Bengals extend Dalton now, it could cost them $15 million per season. That seems to be the going rate for extending quarterbacks given the results of the Romo, Cutler, and Matt Stafford extensions. Obviously, the club is being cautious as well, considering their extension of Carson Palmer near the end of his third season only resulted in one playoff appearance thereafter.
The third option is to let Dalton play out his contract and go with a better option in 2015. The problem with that is the odds are slimmer that Cincinnati will find someone as good as Dalton.
Out of the 47 quarterbacks taken since 2010, only nine of them have led their teams into the playoffs. Realistically, it should be eight since Houston’s T.J. Yates backed the Texans into winning a Peyton-less AFC South in 2011.
The decision isn’t easy, but Mike Brown needs to act before his moves are merely reactions.