Andy Dalton

Andy Dalton Eyeing 2021 Starting Job

Andy Dalton signed to be Dak Prescott‘s backup with the Cowboys this season, but the nine-year Bengals starter does not plan to stay in Dallas beyond 2020. The 32-year-old passer viewed Dallas as an ideal landing spot for a temporary stay — one he hopes will help his value going into 2021 free agency.

I believe I’m a starter in this league, and I feel like I could bring a lot to the table,” Dalton said, via David Hellman of DallasCowboys.com. “I know I’m on a one-year deal. I understand the market’s going to be a little bit different next offseason. So for me, it’s just, I’m trying to set myself up and put myself in the best position for the second half of my career.”

As many as five teams are believed to have pursued Dalton, but he chose a Cowboys team with an entrenched starter — albeit one who is attached to a franchise tag. Prescott has not signed his tender, but Dalton does not expect to, challenge Dallas’ four-year starter.

Dak has played really well, and I knew the situation that I was coming into,” Dalton said. “… This is Year 10 for me — so I think with everything involved and the timing of being a free agent when I was, this is the best decision for me and for family knowing I get to join a great organization on a team that’s ready to win a lot of games.”

Prescott has never missed a game but did battle a shoulder ailment late last season. The Dalton deal protects the Cowboys, who saw Tony Romo go down at various points during his run as their starter.

In the highest-profile quarterback free agent class since free agency began in 1993, Dalton and Jameis Winston signed one-year deals. So did Philip Rivers. Tom Brady, Teddy Bridgewater and Kirk Cousins, however, agreed to multiyear contracts in March. That will help clear things up in 2021. The ’21 free agency class may be headlined by Dalton, Winston and Cam Newton — after his presumptive one-year deal. This would put that trio in a better position to attract interest as starters.

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Five Teams Pursued Andy Dalton

Andy Dalton landed with a team whose quarterback has made 64 straight starts since coming into the NFL, but before signing with the Cowboys, the nine-year Bengals starter drew interest from a few other teams.

In addition to the Cowboys, four other teams pursued Dalton, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk notes. None of them, however, were teams that featured a viable path to a starting job, Florio notes, adding that Dalton decided on the suitor best-equipped to compete for a Super Bowl title.

Employing ex-Bengals OC Jay Gruden, the Jaguars were believed to be in the Dalton mix. The Jets were as well. Dalton has certainly proven more than both those teams’ starters, but each will move ahead with Gardner Minshew and Sam Darnold, respectively. Aside from those two, the other Dalton suitors will have to look elsewhere to bolster their backup jobs.

The Bears may have come closest to landing Dalton, being reported to have been near a trade — to the point Dalton expected to be Chicago-bound. But those talks broke down, leading the Bears to acquire Nick Foles from the Jaguars. Having bypassed low-cost veterans in Dalton and Jameis Winston, after not drafting a quarterback, the Patriots continue to trend toward a legitimate Jarrett StidhamBrian Hoyer QB competition.

Dak Prescott has never missed a start, but Dalton obviously provides a tremendous upgrade over former UDFA Cooper Rush — Dallas’ backup for the past three seasons. Dalton could conceivably create leverage for the Cowboys in their enduring negotiations with Prescott, but that is not believed to be behind Dallas’ decision to sign the Texas native. Dalton is signed to a one-year, $3MM deal — a steep drop from his previous Bengals salary — while Prescott is tethered to a $31.5MM franchise tag.

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Andy Dalton To Sign With Cowboys

Just a couple of days after the Bengals released QB Andy Dalton, the Cowboys are bringing him back home. Per Adam Schefter of ESPN.com, Dallas is signing the Texas native to a one-year, $3MM deal that can reach $7MM with incentives (Twitter link).

One immediate response to the signing is that it could be a leverage play for the Cowboys in their continuing negotiations with Dak Prescott. But according to Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network, that is not the case (Twitter link). Rather, Dallas believes it has a legitimate chance to win the Super Bowl this year, and it’s not often that a team can add a quality, highly-experienced backup this late in the offseason.

And while Jelani Scott of NFL.com writes that Dalton is happy to be returning to his home state, the fact that he is signing with the Cowboys knowing that he will be the backup is telling. We heard immediately after Dalton’s release that the Patriots and Jaguars were interested in his services, and the three-time Pro Bowler would have theoretically had an opportunity to compete for the starting job with those clubs. So as Albert Breer of SI.com observes, perhaps New England’s and Jacksonville’s reported interest amounted to little more than due diligence (Twitter link).

On the other hand, Todd Archer of ESPN.com says Dalton’s decision to sign with the Cowboys was at least partially motivated by the coronavirus. Given the uncertainty created by the pandemic, Dalton — who lives in Dallas — was eager to stay at home even if that meant eschewing a better opportunity elsewhere (though since teams’ offseason programs look like they will remain virtual for the foreseeable future, it seems as if a better opportunity simply wasn’t presenting itself).

The last report concerning Prescott and the Cowboys suggested that negotiations between the two sides were going very well. Prescott has his detractors — just like Dalton — but he has not missed a game in his four-year career, and Dallas certainly hopes that trend will continue in 2020. But if Prescott does miss time, Dallas will have the luxury of inserting a capable signal-caller who has guided his team to the playoffs and who has a winning record over 133 games as a starting QB.

And Dalton, who expressed disappointment that the Bengals did not release him early enough for him to have a chance to catch on with a team that had not already addressed its quarterback position, will have the opportunity to truly explore unrestricted free agency in 2021, when the market will presumably be much less robust than it was this year.

The Cowboys are also rostering Cooper Rush, who has served as Prescott’s backup in each of the past three seasons. Rush is set to earn a non-guaranteed $2.1MM in 2020, but while the team doesn’t have a ton of cap space, it probably has enough to sign its draft class and get through the season (especially if Prescott signs a multi-year deal, which should lower his 2020 number). So even though Rush will be demoted to QB3, he still has a good chance of making the team.

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Jets Interested In Andy Dalton

An unexpected Andy Dalton suitor has surfaced. The Jets are exploring the recently released quarterback, Rich Cimini and Ben Baby of ESPN.com note.

This would likely be as a backup for Sam Darnold, and Cimini adds that the Jets are at the “due diligence” stage of this process. The Jets re-signed 2019 backup David Fales and drafted Florida International’s James Morgan in the fourth round.

A Dalton addition would prove interesting, with the nine-year Bengals starter obviously having accomplished far more than Darnold at this point. Darnold has ranked 25th and 28th in QBR in his two NFL seasons. Adam Gase and GM Joe Douglas were not with the Jets when Darnold was drafted in 2018. Dalton, then, would be the team’s first big quarterback investment since Gase and Douglas entered the picture.

A Darnold-Dalton depth chart would understandably insert competition into the equation, with the latter having three Pro Bowls on his resume. Each invite came as an alternate, but Dalton certainly is a much bigger name than any of Darnold’s backups thus far.

Thus far, the Jaguars have been the team most connected to Dalton. New Jacksonville OC Jay Gruden worked with the veteran passer in Cincinnati. The Bears were close to a Dalton deal in March.

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Latest On QB Andy Dalton, Bengals

Before he was released earlier this week, there was some optimism that Andy Dalton would land in Chicago. As Paul Dehner Jr. of The Athletic writes, the Bengals “were very close” to trading the veteran quarterback to the Bears back in March, and Dalton himself believed that’d be his ultimate landing spot.

Instead, Chicago shifted focus to Nick Foles, sending a fourth-rounder to the Jaguars for the former Super Bowl MVP. When the Bengals/Bears trade broke down, Cincy’s front office quickly discovered that they didn’t have any trade options for Dalton. As Dehner writes, two potential suitors, the Colts and Buccaneers, solved their quarterback issues via free agency, and rival front offices soon realized that the Bengals weren’t going to retain Dalton’s pricey cap hit.

Dalton believes the waiting game ended up hurting his chances of finding an ideal landing spot.

“There were several different factors,” Dalton told Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com. “This year there were a good amount of quarterbacks that were available. I think it would have worked out differently if I had been a free agent when the new league year started. I was still under contact and that hurt me. I’m sure teams knew they were going to take a quarterback No. 1 and they would release me and there was no reason to rush into anything.”

With the Bengals zeroing in on LSU’s Joe Burrow with the first-overall pick, Dalton recently approached president Mike Brown, director of player personnel Duke Tobin, and head coach Zac Taylor for clarity. Ultimately, the organization decided to simply release the 32-year-old.

While Dalton opines that the waiting game impacted his ability to find a new team, it sounds like he may still have some options. We heard earlier this week that the Jaguars and Patriots could be among the teams interested in the veteran quarterback.

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Patriots, Jaguars Interested In Andy Dalton

The Patriots and Jaguars are among the teams with interest in former Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton, a source tells Tyler Dragon of the Cincinnati Enquirer (Twitter link).

The news of Dalton’s release in Cincinnati only came to light this morning, but it appears the veteran signal-caller already has suitors. No team stepped up to trade for Dalton and his $17.7MM base salary, but he shouldn’t want for interest now that he’s available at, presumably, a much lower financial cost.

New England, for its part, only has 2019 fourth-round pick Jarrett Stidham and free agent addition Brian Hoyer in its quarterback room. Stidham is in line to replace Tom Brady, but it would make sense for the club to add more competition. Head coach Bill Belichick recently said the Patriots’ decision not to draft a passer in the 2020 draft was “not by design,” so it doesn’t appear New England has ruled out bringing in another quarterback.

In Jacksonville, Gardner Minshew will fully take the reins as the Jaguars’ starter in 2020, but Dalton could push the 2019 sixth-rounder if signed. Dalton did some of his best work in Cincinnati under offensive coordinator Jay Gruden, who now holds the same title in Jacksonville.

Indeed, the Bengals did shop Dalton to the Jaguars on more than one occasion, according to Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com (Twitter link), but Jacksonville didn’t express much interest. Of course, Dalton’s salary may have played a role in the Jaguars’ view, and they could be eyeing Dalton now that he’s available for a cheaper price.

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Bengals To Release Andy Dalton

The Bengals are releasing veteran quarterback Andy Dalton, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Dalton asked the Bengals to release him, tweets Tom Pelissero of NFL.com.

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.

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AFC Notes: Tunsil, Dalton, Ross, Bengals

Texans left tackle Laremy Tunsil recently landed a three-year, $66MM extension that easily made him the league’s highest-paid offensive lineman, and he did it without an agent. Tunsil negotiated the contract himself and he’s quite happy he did, writes Sarah Barshop of ESPN.com. Tunsil said he thinks he “started a trend by not having an agent doing my deal,” and that he “wanted to reset the market and become the highest-paid offensive linemen just so all the young players under me [know] that anything is possible.”

During the press call Tunsil revealed that he first started talking with the Texans back in February, and that he was insistent on signing a shorter-term deal so he could re-enter free agency again when he was still young. Tunsil is locked up through the 2023 season now, and he’ll still only be 29 when he hits free agency in the spring of 2024. This could become a growing trend in the league, and Tunsil said he spoke with Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner, who also negotiated his own contract, during the process. “You just have to bet on yourself, and that’s what I did, and I got the deal done,” Tunsil declared. “I’m extremely proud of myself and the team. I’m still speechless, even though it was a couple of days ago they made the announcement. I’m still speechless.”

Here’s more from the AFC:

  • The draft came and went, and the Bengals were unable to find any takers for Andy Dalton. They’ve been trying to trade their former starting quarterback for a while, and Paul Dehner Jr. of The Athletic thinks they will end up releasing him shortly after failing to unload him over the weekend. It looks like Cincy is about to finally give up on trading Dalton and the nearly $18MM he’s owed for 2020. We heard shortly before the draft that the Bengals hadn’t ruled out keeping him, but that was likely just a ploy to try to keep his trade value alive. The game of quarterback musical chairs has pretty much ended, and there aren’t many teams out there still looking for a veteran signal-caller. The Patriots have been rumored as an option, and it’ll be very interesting to see where Dalton ends up signing once he gets released. The Colts apparently sniffed around before opting to sign Philip Rivers.
  • Speaking of the Bengals, the draft also spelled bad news for receiver John Ross. Dehner writes that the selection of former Clemson receiver Tee Higgins at the top of the second-round “does pretty much confirm this will be Ross’ last year in Cincinnati.” The Bengals drafted Ross ninth overall in 2017, and his career got off to a very bumpy start. Injuries limited him to only three games and zero catches as a rookie, and he had only 210 yards in 2018. This past season he got off to a torrid start, racking up 270 yards and three touchdowns in the first two weeks of the season. He cooled off quickly after that though, and ended up missing another eight games due to injury. He finished with 506 yards in eight games, but the progress apparently still didn’t inspire much confidence within the organization. The Bengals will have to decide this week whether or not to pick up Ross’ fifth-year option for 2021, and Dehner makes it sound like that isn’t too likely.

Andy Dalton: There’s “A Scenario” Where I Go Back To Bengals

Andy Dalton isn’t sure what’s next for his NFL career, but he’s not dismissing the possibility that he stays with the Bengals. With less than a week to go before the Bengals take the podium – and, most likely, select LSU quarterback Joe Burrow – Dalton says there’s “a scenario” in which he could stay in Cincy. 

[RELATED: Bengals “Maxing Out” Their Time With Joe Burrow] 

I truly believe they want what’s best for me, but I understand it’s a business, and you know how that goes,” Dalton told NFL Network. “With the first pick, if they take a quarterback like everyone expects, that could trigger something. There’s even a scenario where I go back there.”

Dalton served as the Bengals’ starter for years, right up until he was benched and replaced with rookie Ryan Finley midway through the 2019 season. Dalton took his job back later on, but he struggled – the veteran connected on just 57.9% of his passing attempts with seven touchdowns against six interceptions.

Ahead of his age-33 season, Dalton is likely on course to change jerseys. At one point, Dalton said he wanted to start in 2020. Ultimately, he may have to settle for a QB2 role, or wait until late in the offseason to see if an injury opens up a starting job. The former seems more likely, especially since training camp will probably be shortened or modified in some fashion.

For what it’s worth, the Bengals haven’t ruled out a future with Dalton either. If they do move forward with the vet, he’ll almost certainly have to agree to a trim on his $17.5MM base salary.

Dalton holds the Bengals’ all-time record with 204 career passing touchdowns. Unfortunately, he’s also three seasons removed from his best work.

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Bengals Won’t Rule Out Keeping Andy Dalton

The Bengals aren’t in any rush to trade or cut Andy Dalton. And, interestingly, they haven’t ruled out keeping the veteran quarterback on the roster, according to head coach Zac Taylor (Twitter link via Elise Jesse of WLWT). 

[RELATED: Bengals To Listen To Calls On No. 1 Pick?]

“Every option is on the table,” Taylor said. “We’re trying to put ourselves in the best position to make sure we’re prepared for next season and we have the best assets we can have. We think the world of Andy, obviously.”

It still seems unlikely that Dalton would remain with the Bengals on his current contract, which calls for a $17.5MM non-guaranteed base salary. If Dalton stayed in Cincy, he’d be playing second fiddle to a rookie quarterback (likely LSU standout Joe Burrow) and that’s a mighty expensive QB2. Meanwhile, Dalton has made it clear that he wants to be a starter in 2020.

Dalton was the Bengals’ starter from the jump, serving as their QB1 from 2011 up until he got the hook last year. In the midst of a lousy season for the entire organization, the Bengals benched him in favor of rookie Ryan Finley. Dalton got his gig back for the final stretch of the year, but he didn’t impress – he completed just 57.9% of his passing attempts with seven touchdowns against six interceptions.

On the cusp of his age-33 season, and coming off of his worst season, Dalton doesn’t hold much trade value at the moment. That’s the most likely explanation for Dalton remaining on the roster here in April. In all likelihood, the Bengals are waiting to see if other teams get desperate for QB help between now and the start of the season, which might allow them to recoup something of value for Dalton. And, if they’re unable to find a deal, they’ll probably cut him loose.

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