The Andy Dalton era in Cincinnati is just getting started.
The Bengals agreed to a six-year, $96 million extension with the fourth-year quarterback, NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported Monday, per a source directly involved. NFL Media's Albert Breer and Rapoport said the deal is worth a possible $115 million with escalators based on advancing in the playoffs, per a source. The team later officially announced the signing. ESPN first reported the news.
"We're betting big on him because we believe in him," Bengals owner Mike Brown said Monday.
A lot of Bengals fans see Dalton as a quarterback with limited arm strength that has badly struggled in the playoffs. (Dalton has one touchdown pass and six interceptions in three playoff losses.) Brown sees a young signal-caller that has been to the playoffs every season of his career and has room to grow. Only Dan Marino and Peyton Manning have passed for more touchdowns in their first three seasons.
The truth is somewhere in the middle. Dalton is not yet better than a league-average starting quarterback, but league-average starting QBs are worth a ton in this market. The structure of Dalton's contract will be key.
When the San Francisco 49ers signed Colin Kaepernick earlier this offseason, they essentially gave him a "pay as you go" deal. There was very little money guaranteed, and Kaepernick will have to keep performing at a high level to earn his money. Dalton might have a similar structure, as Brown indicated publicly over the summer. Per Rapoport, via a directly involved source, Dalton's extension includes a $12 million signing bonus and a $5 million roster bonus in three days. The $17 million in fully guaranteed money is more than which Kaepernick received.
Dalton needs to improve his decision-making and consistency. A quarterback like him with a limited skill set needs to win with accuracy and smarts, but Dalton too often goes on cold streaks like a wild relief pitcher. He also needs to win above the neck, and too often he makes head-scratching decisions when under pressure.
He's certainly in position to improve. With A.J. Green, Marvin Jones and Giovani Bernard, the Bengals have a great, young offensive nucleus. Offensive coordinator Hue Jackson has succeeded everywhere he's been and should help Dalton this season.
Around The League has long had a theory that Dalton is the prime meridian of NFL quarterbacks. If your quarterback is ranked "After Dalton," you need to a find new one. The Bengals, meanwhile, won't be looking for another quarterback. That could leave their offense stuck in quarterback purgatory for a long time, even if Dalton is now paid like a superstar.