Cincinnati has released quarterback Andy Dalton per his wishes, NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reported. The team later made the news official.
"Andy will always hold a special place with this franchise, and I know that he holds a special place in my heart," team president Mike Brown said in a statement. "This is a hard day for our club because we know and appreciate what a consummate professional Andy has always been. We respect and appreciate Andy, and we thank him."
The release came as a result of a lack of a trade market for the 32-year-old Dalton, according to NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport.
How Dalton's market takes shape will be interesting, and likely not very deep because of the point in the offseason calendar at which his release occurred. Rapoport offered an interesting potential destination: Jacksonville.
Gruden and Dalton worked together in Cincinnati from 2011-2013 during the brightest days of his time with the Bengals, so a reunion with a team that could use a veteran presence alongside young signal-caller Gardner Minshew makes plenty of sense. There's also been considerable thought given to New England's current quarterback situation, which includes a veteran and a youngster in Brian Hoyer and Jarrett Stidham, but could benefit even more from adding Dalton.
"This year's different, with no offseason, and I understand that," Dalton told NFL Network's Michael Silver earlier in April. "I obviously feel I bring value to a team, not only because of my abilities, but because of everything I've learned and experienced.
"It's easy to stress out about your situation, to say, 'What if it's this team or that team?' But there's no reason to try to What If? yourself to death. I'm just going to sit back and let this happen. My wife and I were talking (Wednesday) night, and we have such a peace about everything. We're gonna be where God wants us to be, and it's gonna work out exactly how it's supposed to."
Dalton spent all nine years of his NFL career in Cincinnati, where he moved from his lifelong home state of Texas after the Bengals made him the 35th overall pick in 2011. He started his first game in Week 1 of 2011, and though he didn't finish that contest due to injury, he'd start every game for the Bengals for the next four seasons and make the playoffs in each of those campaigns, plus an additional postseason berth in 2015.
In that span (2011-2015), Dalton completed 62.3 percent of his passes for 18,008 yards, 124 touchdowns and 73 interceptions in 77 starts. His passer rating of 88.4 mirrored that of his entire career (87.5), while he earned two of his three Pro Bowl selections in 2011 and 2014.
Things went south in Cincinnati following 2015 as the Bengals finished under .500 in each of their final four seasons of the decade, regressing from a playoff team that could be counted on for a wild-card loss to one that was frequently picking in the upper half of the draft. Such a descent bottomed out in Zac Taylor's first year as head coach, with Dalton being temporarily benched for rookie Ryan Finley before returning to finish Cincinnati's 2-14 season, which earned the Bengals the right to select Burrow to replace Dalton.
"Andy will always be considered a key member of the Bengals' organization," Taylor said in a statement. "His teammates and coaches appreciate his leadership and his commitment to winning. Just as importantly, Andy and his wife JJ are leaving a lasting impact in the community with the incredible work their foundation has done over the years. Andy and his family have meant a lot to this team and this city, and we wish them the best in the future."
Dalton's final line -- completion percentage of 62, 31,594 passing yards, 204 touchdowns and 118 interceptions -- resembles who he was as the Bengals' quarterback. His career passer rating fits his status as a second-round selection even better. Dalton was a Pro Bowler three times, but firmly entrenched in the middle tier of NFL quarterbacks. His hair color nearly matched his team's helmet, and for the majority of a decade, he was their quarterback.