In an interview with SI.com's Don Banks, Cincinnati Bengals coach Marvin Lewis suggested that Cutler's seven-year, $126.7 million contract featuring $54 million in guarantees has been the sticking point in nascent negotiations with Andy Dalton.
"I'm hopeful, you know?" Lewis told Banks. "I know he would like to get it done and I know we'd like to get it done, and just hopefully we can get by that deal with my man, Cutler in Chicago and we can all get something everybody likes."
All indications out of Cincinnati are that intractable owner/general manager Mike Brown is reluctant to shell out franchise-quarterback money for a signal-caller who has laid three eggs in the past three postseasons.
Who can blame him? The question isn't whether Dalton is worth $18 million per year in a vacuum. It's whether devoting such a hefty portion of the salary cap to a mediocre NFL quarterback will hamstring the organization's ability to build a competitive roster.
Until Dalton and Smith prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that their respective coaching staffs can construct a high-octane, pass-oriented offense around their talents, they are going to remain stuck in second-tier quarterback limbo.