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Mike Brown: Dalton must restore himself for extension

Andy Dalton is one of football's longest-tenured starting quarterbacks. Since being selected by the Cincinnati Bengals in the second round of the 2011 draft, Dalton has missed just eight starts in eight seasons.

The Bengals rewarded their franchise quarterback with a six-year extension in 2014, one season before his rookie deal was set to expire. However, with that massive contract entering its second-to-final year, don't expect Cincinnati to reward Dalton with another extension any time soon.

"I think it's a good year for [Dalton] to show like he can, like we think he will," Bengals owner Mike Brown told reporters at the Annual League Meeting this week, per The Cincinnati Enquirer. "After he re-establishes himself, we would want to get together with him and see if we can extend it."

To re-establish himself in the minds of the owner and new coach Zac Taylor, Dalton must rebound positively from a shortened 2018 season. The Bengals QB missed the final five games of the campaign with torn ligaments in his thumb.

Dalton and the Bengals started hot in 2018, but by the time Dalton suffered his season-ending injury, Cincinnati had lost five of its last six and was falling out of contention. The Red Rifle finished with 2,566 passing yards, 21 touchdowns and 11 picks with a 61.9 completion percentage.

"I think Andy is a good player and that he will rebound off last year," Brown told reporters. "He was hurt. We lost so many other pieces. It fell apart, but if he's healthy and we stay healthy enough, I have confidence in him."

Brown's sentiments imply that 2019 will be a prove-it year of sorts for Dalton. If he doesn't bounce back under a supposed offensive wunderkind like Taylor, then Cincinnati will feel free to not extend him and look elsewhere for a franchise QB; perhaps they might do so in this year's draft.

Cincy currently employs just one other quarterback with starting experience on the roster: Jeff Driskel, who played out the 2018 season well while Dalton was on injured reserve. There's also Brad Kaaya. Depending on how the Bengals fare in 2019, Cincy could also be in play for one of the top signal-callers purportedly coming out in 2020 (Tua Tagovailoa, Justin Herbert).

But if Dalton does perform up to his Pro Bowl capabilities, then Bengals brass will have a tough decision on their hands: Give up on Dalton, as the Dolphins did with Ryan Tannehill this offseason, or extend him again out of hope and loyalty?

In January, Bengals general manager Duke Tobin said that the organization was "very comfortable" with Dalton and thought the quarterback had "a number of years left" in Cincinnati. Whether that number is more than two remains to be seen.

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