Cincinnati Bengals  

 

Andy Dalton contract: Cincinnati Bengals should have waited

On Monday, the Cincinnati Bengals committed to Andy Dalton as their quarterback. Thus, they also committed to not winning the Super Bowl in the years Andy Dalton is under center.

Harsh? Reactionary? A hot take?

Let's call it no, never and not quite.

When it comes to writing about Dalton not being the answer in Cincinnati, this isn't my first rodeo.

The day after the 2013 regular season ended -- the day after San Diego snuck past Kansas City and into the playoffs with a little help from the rabbit's foot (... or the Ryan Succop voodoo doll) -- I penned a column explaining why the "lucky" Chargers would march into Cincy and beat the Bengals. Many readers bashed me in the comments section and on Twitter, but my logic was simple: Andy Dalton doesn't play well in the playoffs. This turned out to be the case yet again. Cincinnati bailed out of the postseason and, one day later, I further chronicled the Bengals' Dalton dilemma.

Yet, seven months after that disappointment, the Bengals felt it necessary to give Dalton a six-year, $96 million contract extension that could be worth as much as $115 million, according to NFL Media's Ian Rapoport and Albert Breer. The deal includes a $12 million signing bonus and $5 million roster bonus due Thursday. That's $17 million fully guaranteed -- more guaranteed dough than what was included in the San Francisco 49ers' new deal with Colin Kaepernick, who is a superior player to Dalton.

This is all relatively bonkers.

Look, Andy Dalton deserves credit for leading the Bengals to the postseason in three consecutive years, his first three seasons in the NFL. He owns a 30-18 record in the regular season. Dalton's passing yards, touchdowns and quarterback rating have all increased each season. These are facts -- facts that merit praise.

But it isn't remotely the big picture.

Andy Dalton's postseason play has been dreadful and, frankly, counterproductive to a promising young team looking to establish itself as a true contender. Let's take a closer look ...

In Dalton's first playoff start, the rookie ... well ... looked like a rookie, throwing three picks against zero touchdown passes in a 31-10 pasting courtesy of the Houston Texans. One year later, same result: a loss at Houston. Dalton completed just 47 percent of his passes that day for a grand total of 127 yards -- with one pick against zero TD passes. Then last postseason: The Chargers debacle in Paul Brown Stadium. Cincinnati had posted a perfect 8-0 home record during the regular season. No matter. Dalton was San Diego's MVP, with three second-half turnovers in the 27-10 Bengals loss.

So, in total, Dalton is 0-3 in the playoffs with one touchdown pass to six interceptions and a 56.2 quarterback rating -- nearly 30 ticks less than his regular-season mark of 85.7. For comparison's sake, Mr. Kaepernick is 4-2 in the postseason with a rating of 87.3 -- and an average of 84 rushing yards per game.

When I asked one NFL general manager last January why Dalton continually struggles in big spots, he didn't pull any punches: "He's an average to below-average talent with poor arm strength and physical tools. He needs the team around him to be on target, and when they aren't, he just gets exposed."

Yes, Dalton was exposed again, and the Bengals' 2013 season -- a season that began with so much promise, a season that saw Cincy win the AFC North by three games -- went up in smoke.

Which brings us full circle back to Monday's extension, begging one simple question: Why?

Why pay Dalton that money if he hasn't performed in the playoffs? Cincinnati has a Super Bowl-caliber defense. The offense boasts a deep and diverse group of skill-position players, highlighted by the great A.J. Green. The offensive line is strong. This team -- other than No. 14 -- is ready for showtime.

Dalton wasted the Bengals' chance to make a run last season. What about this season? The Denver Broncos and New England Patriots remain the teams to beat in the AFC, but they are older groups that do have flaws, even with their legendary quarterbacks. Still, though, do you believe Dalton -- and Marvin Lewis, whose game management has been very spotty in these playoff losses -- can best Peyton Manning or Tom Brady? Haven't we learned anything from the past three postseason flame-outs?

Why trust Dalton? And why pay him now?

Just wait. It worked for the rival Ravens.

Baltimore wanted to see if Joe Flacco could earn his payday by winning when it mattered. Flacco endured an up-and-down regular season in 2012, and was gifted a crucial win on the famous "Hey diddle diddle, Ray Rice up the middle" play. But Flacco, to his credit, was purely dominant in the Ravens' ensuing title run, throwing 11 touchdown passes against zero interceptions and posting a sparkling 117.2 QB rating. The following offseason, Baltimore rightfully rewarded him with a monster deal.

Why wouldn't Cincy wait to see what Dalton does this season? Find out if he can get over the postseason hump.

Some will argue that, with the way this contract is constructed, Cincy can dump Dalton in two or three years and not take an additional financial hit. I would counter by saying the Bengals are wasting a talented roster in the meantime.

They squandered a potentially great season in 2013. If they don't win big with this core in 2014, '15 or '16, they'll be missing a major window of opportunity.

The timing on this extension makes no sense. In three straight playoff losses, Dalton has been one of the worst players on the field.

Rewarding him, at this point, is just illogical.

Follow Adam Schein on Twitter @AdamSchein.

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