Andy Dalton

Bengals Could Draft Quarterback Early?

The Bengals have a big offseason ahead of them. It’s the first year of the Zac Taylor era after the team finally fired Marvin Lewis after 16 seasons. Cincinnati has Andy Dalton at quarterback, but they might not be sold on him as the longterm answer. As such, the Bengals could very realistically use their first round pick on a quarterback, according to a panel on NFL Network (video Twitter link).

Bengals owner Mike Brown recently said the team wasn’t in any rush to extend Dalton and indicated the TCU product would need to prove himself this season, so this isn’t too surprising. Last week we heard that Dalton, who ended last year on injured reserve after undergoing thumb surgery, would be fully healthy for the offseason program.

On the panel, Mike Garafolo said he talked to other teams picking near the Bengals, and stated “other teams are watching them saying ‘that is a potential landing spot for a quarterback.'” Garafolo points out that quarterback needy teams like the Dolphins and Redskins pick after the Bengals, and there’s a good chance they’ll need to jump ahead of Cincinnati if they want a signal-caller.

One interesting nugget that could bode well for Dalton is that the only top quarterback the Bengals have brought into their building for a visit is N.C. State’s Ryan Finley, according to Ian Rapoport. Finley “has a shot at being a second rounder,” Rapoport says, but isn’t a realistic option for the Bengals with the 11th overall pick. The Bengals could draft Finley sometime on Day 2 and let him be the backup initially without having a quarterback controversy on their hands.

That being said, that doesn’t mean the Bengals won’t draft a passer who they haven’t hosted on an official visit. Rapsheet notes that the team “spent some time” with Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins around his pro day, and he could be a target if he slips to them. Thanks to having five sixth round picks, the Bengals own 11 picks overall in the upcoming draft, and they will be one of the more interesting teams to monitor in Nashville.

Andy Dalton To Be Fully Healthy For Offseason Program

The Bengals are heading into a transitional year. After a very disappointing 2018 season, the Bengals finally moved on from longtime coach Marvin Lewis. To replace him, they hired 35-year-old whizkid Zac Taylor away from the Rams.

Part of the reason 2018 was so disappointing was because of the season-ending injury quarterback Andy Dalton suffered. Fortunately for Cincinnati, Dalton is fully recovered from his thumb surgery and will be a full-go when OTA practices start, according to Geoff Hobson of the team’s official site. There were murmurs earlier this offseason that the team could look to move on from Dalton and go younger at the position, but that doesn’t appear to be the case. That being said, owner Mike Brown made it clear the team wasn’t in a rush to extend him recently.

“I think it’s a good year for (Dalton) to show like he can, like we think he will. After he re-establishes himself we would want to get together with him and see if we can extend it. I think Andy is a good player and that he will rebound off last year. 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 said, issuing a slightly less than ringing endorsement.

Dalton was having a decent enough season before going down, but unfortunately he hasn’t been anything better than decent the past few years. Even though the team has publicly proclaimed confidence in him, it still wouldn’t be surprising to see the Bengals draft a quarterback early later this month.

The Bengals’ offense completely collapsed once Jeff Driskel took over following the injury, which at least showed the Bengals’ struggles weren’t all about Dalton. He wasn’t the only high profile Bengal to have their season cut short with an injury, as star receiver A.J. Green was limited to just nine games. Green struggled with a toe injury all year and was hurt a lot in 2016 as well, but Brown said at the same time he made his comments on Dalton that the team wanted to extend Green. Hobson writes that he expects the Bengals “to ease Green along” this offseason, whereas Dalton should be a full-go for practices.

If Dalton doesn’t make major strides under Taylor, it’s highly possible if not probable that the team will move on next offseason. One thing that’s helped him stick this far has been his reasonable contract. Dalton has two years left on his deal with a total of $33.5MM owed to him. It’s a pivotal year for Dalton, and the fact that he’ll be fully healthy to begin picking up the new system is a very positive development.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bengals Open To A.J. Green Extension?

The Bengals sound open to an extension for wide receiver A.J. Green, as Fletcher Page of The Enquirer writes. However, that’s not the case for quarterback Andy Dalton

Oh, I think he’s a proven commodity, isn’t he?,” Bengals owner Mike Brown said. “The price range for him will be something we can figure out, it will come together. It’s true with anyone, if they suddenly get an injury..it reduces them. Well that changes the equation, but I never plan on that happening. I like to think that won’t happen. If A.J. is healthy, he’s as good a receiver as anybody in the league.”

Health, of course, was an issue for Green last year. The perennial Pro Bowler saw his season end in early December, marking the second time in three years that his season ended on IR. Still, Green finished out with 46 catches for 694 yards and six touchdowns in nine games, numbers that put him on pace for his usually strong output across a 16-game season.

Green has one year left on the four-year, $60MM extension he inked with the Bengals in 2015. Since then, he’s watched many other receivers leapfrog him in salary. When it comes to yearly salary, seven WRs rank ahead of Green: Odell Beckham Jr., Antonio Brown, Mike Evans, DeAndre Hopkins, Brandin Cooks, Sammy Watkins, and Jarvis Landry all earn more than Green’s $15MM/year average.

Meanwhile, a new deal for Dalton sounds unlikely to happen anytime soon.

I think it’s a good year for (Dalton) to show like he can, like we think he will. After he re-establishes himself we would want to get together with him and see if we can extend it,” Brown said when asked about Dalton, who has two years to go on his deal. “I think Andy is a good player and that he will rebound off last year. 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.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC North Notes: Brown, Steelers, Ravens, Tyrod Taylor, Bengals, Dalton, Browns

As we await a resolution to the ongoing Antonio Brown saga with the Steelers, we have a new interesting piece today. Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com conducted interviews with “nearly 20 former or current teammates of Brown”, to help figure out what went wrong between Brown and the team. While most that Fowler spoke with seem to acknowledge he’s unlikely to return to Pittsburgh, many spoke up in favor of Brown and said he’s being cast in an unfair light by the media.

Fowler writes that Brown “was — and in many ways still is — beloved in the Steelers’ locker room”, and that the situation is more complex and nuanced than it may appear. Many of Brown’s teammates have publicly lobbied for him to stay, and if the recent rumor is true that the Steelers aren’t getting the kind of trade offers they were hoping for, perhaps they do find a way to make it work after all. For what it’s worth, Steelers owner Art Rooney did adopt a slightly more conciliatory tone in his most recent statements to the press.

Here’s more from the AFC North:

  • Last week a reporter mentioned Tyrod Taylor as a possible target of the Ravens to be Lamar Jackson‘s backup next season, and Baltimore coach John Harbaugh added some fuel to that fire. Harbaugh said today that he’d like to add two quarterbacks behind Jackson this offseason, ideally with a similar playing style, and the recently extended coach brought up Robert Griffin III and Taylor on his own, according to Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic (Twitter link). Griffin served as the number three this past year, and said recently he loved his time in Baltimore, so it seems likely he’ll be re-signed.
  • The Bengals are riding with Andy Dalton, for now. Cincinnati’s director of player personnel Duke Tobin spoke recently to reporters and while he expressed some confidence in Dalton, he also left the door open for the team to draft a future replacement, according to Fletcher Page of the Cincinnati Enquirer. Dalton has been in that gray area second tier of quarterbacks for a while now, and it’s been speculated that the Bengals could look to move on this offseason with Marvin Lewis finally out the door. Presumptive coach Zac Taylor can’t even join the team until his Rams play in the Super Bowl, and he’ll obviously have a large say in determining Dalton’s fate. Dalton seems safe for 2019, but as Page notes, the team can get out from his contract with no dead money at any time.
  • If you haven’t already read Seth Wickersham of ESPN.com‘s piece on the Browns, you need to now. Wickersham details a shocking level of dysfunction within the organization over the past handful of years since Jimmy Haslam bought the team, and it includes some bombshell details. Among other things, Haslam overruled the entire front office who wanted to hire current Bills coach Sean McDermott in favor of hiring Hue Jackson, and insisted the team take Johnny Manziel over Teddy Bridgewater in the 2014 draft because he didn’t like Bridgewater’s handshake. The article does leave off on a hopeful note, as new GM John Dorsey has been able to ward off most of Haslam’s meddling and cut him out of things, but it will be very interesting to see if Haslam again inserts himself into the process in the crucial coming months.

Latest On Andy Dalton, Marvin Lewis

Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis, now in his 16th year at the helm, appeared all but gone from Cincinnati at the end of last season. It was reported last December that Lewis was expected to leave the team to pursue opportunities elsewhere, which included another head coaching job or perhaps a front office role. However, Lewis and the Bengals surprisingly reversed course, and the two sides came to terms on a two-year extension back in January.

However, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports that the two-year extension was actually a one-year pact with a team option for 2019, so the club can move on from Lewis without penalty at the end of the season if it so chooses. Which means, as Rapoport notes, that Lewis’ future as the club’s head coach is once again in doubt.

Lewis has guided the Bengals to a 130-118-3 mark during his tenure, and his club has qualified for the playoffs seven times (including five straight seasons from 2011-15). But Cincinnati is 0-7 in playoff games under Lewis’ watch, and the team now appears destined to miss the postseason for the third consecutive year.

One of the reasons for the Bengals’ disappointing 2018 campaign is injuries. Lewis’ club has been ravaged by the injury bug — the Bengals have put more players on IR in 2018 than they did the last three years combined — and a number of key players who have avoided IR have nonetheless been sidelined for multiple games. So, as Paul Dehner Jr. of the Cincinnati Enquirer writes, owner Mike Brown will have to think about how much different the season would have been if the Bengals had not been hit so hard by injuries and determine Lewis’ fate based on that. We learned last week that current special assistant Hue Jackson could succeed Lewis as the Bengals’ head coach, and Rapoport confirms that report. RapSheet also suggests that Lewis could transition to a front office role with Cincinnati.

As for quarterback Andy Dalton — who is now among those Bengals on IR — Rapoport says that the Red Rifle will be back with the team in 2019. Dehner writes in a separate piece that Dalton, who did have surgery to repair a torn ligament in his thumb, is expected to make a full recovery before the team’s offseason program begins next year. Dalton believes he has the full support of the team’s decision-makers, and Dehner agrees that no one is expecting the Bengals to part ways with the 31-year-old signal-caller (even though they could do so without taking on any dead money).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bengals Place Andy Dalton On IR

Andy Dalton‘s thumb injury will end his season. The Bengals will place their starting quarterback on IR, Paul Dehner Jr. of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports (on Twitter).

Cincinnati also claimed Tom Savage off waivers from the 49ers, per Dehner (on Twitter). Jeff Driskel, who took his first NFL snaps this season, will be in line to start the rest of the way for Cincinnati. This may deal a massive blow to the Bengals’ fleeting playoff hopes.

Torn thumb ligaments will cause Dalton to venture to IR, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports (on Twitter). It’s not known if a surgery is scheduled, but that would be logical given the IR announcement. This malady forced Dalton out of the Bengals’ Week 12 loss, but it was initially reported the eighth-year quarterback did not suffer a break. Still, he will head to IR for the first time in his career.

Dalton has missed just three games in his career — all in 2015, which crushed probably the best Bengals team in the past 30 years — and the Bengals did not invest much in a backup quarterback this offseason. A.J. McCarron departed via free agency, but the Bengals retained Driskel and essentially promoted him to QB2.

The Bengals started out 4-1 but have lost five of their past six games. Dalton did not finish losses against the Saints and Browns, the former because of the nature of the game. He was enjoying a better season than he produced in 2017, throwing 21 touchdown passes and holding a 64.6 Total QBR — nearly 20 points better than his 2017 mark.

Dalton had cooled off, though, since Cincy’s hot start, failing to eclipse 160 passing yards in three of his past five starts — the most recent such instance because of his injury. A.J. Green‘s absence had plenty to do with this, but while the Bengals’ top player may be ready to return in Week 13 against the Broncos, Driskel (36 career pass attempts) will be throwing him passes.

Driskel began his college career at Florida before transferring to Louisiana Tech. He landed with the 49ers in 2016 as a UDFA.

Savage spent parts of this season with the 49ers but was jettisoned multiple times, the most recent cut coming Saturday. He was the Texans’ opening day starter in 2017, but Deshaun Watson quickly replaced him. After Watson’s injury, Savage returned. He finished last season with 1,412 passing yards, five touchdown throws and six INTs.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC Rumors: Dalton, Gordon, Berry

It’s been a rough November for the Bengals, who have tumbled off the No. 6 seed line on “If the season ended today” graphics. Now, the 5-6 team may be facing the prospect of playing its first game without Andy Dalton in three years. The longtime Cincinnati starter left Sunday’s loss to the Browns early because of a thumb injury, but Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets initial tests did not reveal a break. Dalton will undergo further examination, but it appears the eighth-year starter avoided serious injury. His status for Week 13 is uncertain, however. The Bengals did not invest much resources in at backup quarterback this year, going with Jeff Driskel after the departure of A.J. McCarron. A former UDFA, Driskel entered today’s game having thrown seven career passes — all this season. He would be in line to face the Broncos next week if Dalton can’t go.

Here’s the latest from the AFC:

  • Melvin Gordon might not be as fortunate. The Chargers‘ explosive starter may see his All-Pro bid put on hold because of a knee injury he sustained Sunday. Gordon left the Bolts’ win over the Cardinals because of an MCL malady, Eric Williams of ESPN.com reports (on Twitter). Gordon will undergo additional evaluation on Monday, but Williams notes there’s a real possibility the top-tier running back won’t be able to go next week against the Steelers. An MCL tear would put the rest of Gordon’s regular season in jeopardy. Gordon was battling a hamstring injury this week but suited up and scored twice before leaving the game.
  • The Chiefs have waited for months for Eric Berry to show progress, and it looks to finally be happening. After a report previously indicated the three-time All-Pro safety was close to returning to practice for the first time in three-plus months, Rapoport tweets the Chiefs indeed expect Berry to practice this week. Berry’s dealing with Haglund’s deformity, a heel ailment, and hasn’t practiced since training camp. Since signing his $13MM-per-year extension, Berry’s played in just one game. But the Chiefs did not place him on IR this season and clearly believe a return could well happen soon.
  • Baltimore is 2-0 in Lamar Jackson‘s starts and may not be ready to return to Joe Flacco when he’s healthy again.

Bengals Won’t Re-Do Andy Dalton’s Deal

Andy Dalton is set to carry a $16.3MM cap number in the coming year, which is on the low end for a starting quarterback. Don’t look for them to renegotiate his deal, however.

We didn’t sign the Andy Dalton deal because we thought it was a good deal. At the time it was an expensive deal. It was a heavy lift,” Bengals vice president Troy Blackburn said (via the team website). “We did it because Andy was a winning starting quarterback in the National Football League, he had demonstrated that. We know statistically your best chance of success is by rewarding your own players and maintaining that quality core. That is what drove that. We are certainly aware quarterback deals have evolved since then. We know that at the right time we will have to evolve as well. We don’t think this is the time right now. What we are going to focus on right now is building the best team for 2018 we possibly can.”

The Bengals inked Dalton to a six-year deal in the summer of 2014 that made him the team’s all-time highest-paid player in terms of annual average value. The $16MM rate doesn’t look like much now, but at the time, it was a significant payout.

With Dalton under contract through 2020, the Bengals have little incentive to rework his contract at this time. His performance also hasn’t warranted a pay bump. Dalton earned Pro Bowl nods in 2014 and 2016 and quietly had a strong year in between, but last season he completed just 59.9% of his passes and threw for a career low 3,320 yards.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC Rumors: M. Peters, Harrison, Pryor

Now that the Chiefs have acquired David Amerson and are on the verge of adding Kendall Fuller — once the Alex Smith trade is finalized — Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk wonders if Kansas City could trade Marcus Peters. Peters, whom the Chiefs selected in the first round of the 2015 draft, has quickly established himself as one of the better corners in the league, but as Florio notes, he has been a “handful” for Kansas City, and the incident that got Peters suspended for a game in December may have been the last straw for the team. Florio says “some in league circles” believe Peters could be on the trade block, and Alex Marvez of SiriusXM appears to think it’s a possibility as well (Twitter link).

Let’s take a look at more notes from around the AFC:

  • There is a “reasonable chance” that James Harrison returns to the Patriots in 2018, as Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk (citing Christopher Price of the Boston Sports Journal) writes. New England successfully deployed Harrison as a three-down player after acquiring him late last season, and as Harrison recently indicated he wants to play at least one more year, it may make sense for both parties to continue their relationship.
  • Mike Reiss of ESPN.com says it does appear as if well-respected offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia will be back with the Patriots in 2018, a prospect that was very much in doubt just a few weeks ago.
  • The Browns will pursue a reunion with free agent wideout Terrelle Pryor this offseason, per Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com. Cabot says Pryor never really wanted to leave Cleveland last year, but when the Browns signed Kenny Britt to the same contract they had on the table for Pryor, he didn’t have a choice.
  • The devastating injury to Ryan Shazier will not impact the way the Steelers approach their decision-making with respect to fifth-year options, as Florio writes.
  • Now that A.J. McCarron is set to leave the Bengals, Jim Owczarski of the Cincinnati Enquirer wonders what his departure will mean for Cincinnati. He says Andy Dalton is not going anywhere — which was at least a remote possibility before Marvin Lewis decided to return — and he believes the Bengals could look to address other, more pressing needs in the early rounds of the 2018 draft and select a polished collegiate signal-caller in the middle rounds (just as they did with McCarron). Owczarski also suggests that Cincinnati could add a veteran on a one-year deal to back up Dalton.

QB Rumors: Rodgers, Stanton, Bengals

Mike McCarthy appeared to move closer to the prospect the Packers could shut down Aaron Rodgers for the season’s remainder on Monday. The Green Bay HC said Rodgers was sore and the staff is “working through that” after the all-world quarterback’s re-emergence game against the Panthers, and the coach said he would watch the Falcons-Buccaneers game closely Monday night, per Ryan Wood and Michael Cohen of PackersNews.com. The Falcons are currently leading, and that result holding would end the Packers’ eight-season playoff streak tonight. McCarthy being noncommittal about Rodgers’ status after the Week 15 Green Bay loss, coupled with his Monday-night plans, would indicate a possible consideration of giving Rodgers a longer offseason to fully recover and prepare for 2018.

Here’s the latest from the quarterback position as Week 15 winds down.

  • As for Rodgers’ offseason, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports suggests it would be a good time to lock down Rodgers to a “monster” extension. The quarterback has seen inferior passers usurp him on the salary list in the past few years and would be in position to command a deal close to $30MM annually if he so chose. The salary cap is expected to rise between $174MM and $179MM from this year’s $167MM ceiling. Rodgers’ five-year, $110MM extension came in a year (2013) when the cap rested at $123MM. There are two years remaining on Rodgers’ contract following this season. The 34-year-old passer has no guaranteed money left on his deal, which has cap numbers of just $20.9MM and $21.1MM lined up for 2018 and ’19, respectively.
  • La Canfora also writes the Bengals playing A.J. McCarron instead of Andy Dalton during the final two games would be prudent. McCarron could end up a UFA depending on the outcome of his grievance, which is set for February. As of now, the fourth-year passer is set to be a restricted free agent. However, Marvin Lewis said (via Jim Owczarski of the Cincinnati Enquirer) he plans to keep Dalton in his starting role despite another sub-.500 season being guaranteed. La Canfora writes Dalton, who is attached to a team-friendly contract that runs through 2020 but contains little guaranteed money going forward, could “easily” be traded. McCarron, of course, was nearly traded to the Browns for a second- and third-round pick. The career backup’s attempted just 133 regular-season passes.
  • The Cardinals will be shaking up their quarterback status quo by turning back to Drew Stanton after going with Blaine Gabbert for five games. Bruce Arians (via Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, on Twitter) confirmed his initial Carson Palmer contingency plan will take back the reins. This comes after Arians raved about Gabbert’s abilities and with the Cardinals reportedly discussing an extension with the former first-round pick. Stanton started two games for the Cards earlier this season before going down with an injury. Stanton is signed through 2018.
  • Tom Savage‘s scary injury in Week 14 did not immediately result in his removal from that Texans-49ers game, making it a seminal sequence in the NFL’s ongoing concussion crisis. And Bill O’Brien said Monday (per Mark Berman of Fox 26, on Twitter) the fourth-year quarterback may not play again this season. T.J. Yates started in Sunday’s blowout loss to the Jaguars. Savage stands to be an unrestricted free agent at season’s end.