Dalton had been on the trade block for the entirety of the offseason, as Cincinnati knew it would be replacing the nine-year starter with No. 1 overall pick Joe Burrow, whom the Bengals officially drafted last week. While the Bengals discussed a Dalton deal with the Bears in February (and may have spoken with other clubs), they were never able to unload the 32-year-old in exchange for draft capital.
Although Dalton indicated earlier this month that a “scenario” existed in which he’d return to Cincinnati, it never seemed likely that the Bengals would carry his $17.7MM salary for 2020. And that salary likely halted any potential trade talks, as well. The Bengals could have — and may — offered to pay down some of Dalton’s salary before trading him, but that may not have been enticing enough to other clubs to facilitate a deal.
Now that he’s on the free agent market, Dalton enters an NFL landscape without many starting quarterback jobs available. Looking around the league, the two teams that still may have somewhat open quarterback competitions are the Jaguars (who employ one of Dalton’s former offensive coordinators in Jay Gruden) and the Patriots. Of course, other veterans such as Cam Newton and Joe Flacco are also still available and could compete for those same roles.
A second-round pick in the 2011 draft, Dalton led the Bengals to five consecutive playoff appearances to begin his career. However, Cincinnati never won a postseason game in any of those five seasons, and the club hasn’t returned to the playoffs since. In 2015, Dalton was playing at a near-MVP level before fracturing his thumb in a December game against the Steelers, but he didn’t match that pace in any of the next four years.
For the Bengals, releasing Dalton not only affirms Burrow’s position as the club’s Week 1 starter, but gives them $17.7MM in additional cap space. The free agent market is largely picked over at this point, but Cincinnati now has extra cash on hand for extensions for A.J. Green and/or Joe Mixon.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.