After Colin Kaepernick’s new deal earlier this year, it was only a matter of time before a signal-caller from the same draft class would get a similar pay raise.
If your money was on Andy Dalton being that guy, well … congratulations.
The former TCU QB, taken one spot ahead of Kaepernick, finalized a long-term extension that is set to pay him a maximum of $115 million over the next six years. Entering his fourth year in the league, “The Red Rifle” has taken the Cincinnati Bengals to three straight playoff appearances thus far. Additionally, he already has career numbers boasting over 11,000 passing yards and 80 touchdown passes, with a 60.9 completion percentage and an 85.7 passer rating.
However, despite the passing accolades he has accumulated over his young career, the deal left many pundits and analysts scratching their heads.
After all, while he took the Bengals to three playoff appearances, Dalton is 0-3 in the postseason, with his play being sub-par – at best – in all three games. Additionally, Dalton has a “Jekyll and Hyde” style of play – that is, he can be really good at times, while at others, he can be pretty awful.
Don’t take it from me – Bill Barnwell of Grantland does a better job of breaking down the good, bad and ugly of Andy Dalton – especially when he’s under pressure – than I could.
Furthermore, let’s not forget that Dalton, over the years, has had some pretty formidable weapons at his disposal while he’s been at the helm – from stellar WRs like A.J. Green to a pressure-relieving running game that touched the ball 450 times in 2013. In any case, Dalton has had the supporting cast on offense, along with a Top-10 defensive squad, to help him get to the postseason. But when it turns to crunchtime – the time in the playoffs when QBs are forced to take over – Dalton simply doesn’t measure up.
So, with all that in mind, why would a team pay him that much?
Well, first of all, he’s not exactly guaranteed all that money. That’s right: his deal looks an awful lot like the team-friendly $126 million contract extension given to Kaepernick – one that actually reads as a two-year, $28 million deal, with an epic pay-as-you-go clause. However, in this case, Cincinnati opted to give Dalton only $17 million in rock-solid, guaranteed money. The other $98 million? He’s gonna have to earn it on the field. And, considering his play in the postseason, there may be no way he’ll be able to recoup the entire contract.
Second of all, I think the Bengals, realizing that Kaepernick set the market price on franchise QBs, were forced to work within the $110 million range. The NFL, after all, is a business – and, if individual franchises believe they have their franchise players, they have to pay them as such, lest they lose them in free agency.
But couldn’t the Bengals just move on and find a new franchise QB, I hear you pessimistic Bengals fans asking. And, to that, I can only say this: You think it’s EASY finding a franchise signal-caller in this day and age? Sometimes, you have to take what you can get. I mean, look at the Cowboys and Tony Romo.
Seriously, though – it’s not like Andy Dalton is chopped liver. He’s only been in the league for three years, and has averaged almost 3,800 yards passing and 26 TDs per season. That’s pretty good.
Lastly – and, in an instance where I could be reaching, but is no less a legitimate reason – setting a $115 million price on Dalton’s head will most likely affect other franchise signal-callers looking for new deals. Namely, one Russell Wilson of the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks.
On the heels of both Kaepernick AND Dalton – neither of whom have won a World Championship as of yet – getting massive contract numbers (albeit attached to team-friendly deals), the ‘Hawks will be hard-pressed to come up with similar, if not greater, numbers for their QB. It’s possible an extension for Wilson could reach over $130 million, with a bulk of it “guaranteed” – not something that will come easy for Seattle, considering they’ve already reached considerable deals for their All-Pro secondary.
In any case, Dalton’s deal, while abnormally large, possibly to a fault, is still consistent with the recent trend of franchise QBs being paid accordingly. And, while the Red Rifle will have to prove himself worthy of said contract over the next six years – especially if he wants to get paid – it may be the incentive he needs to propel his game to the next level, which is something the city of Cincinnati will welcome with open arms.