Two teams will test this theory through the off-season and into 2014: the Bengals and the Panthers. First, the Bengals will have an opportunity to offer Andy Dalton a contract after he broke several franchise records this season. However, it is unlikely that owner Mike Brown will do so, though it is probably more due to his traditional miserly management of the team rather than any sort of savior faire.
Mike Brown’s efforts do have a silver lining. The Bengals have been maintaining themselves significantly under the salary cap and have been locking up their studs with well-structured contracts that dole money out in lumps so the cap is not affected greatly over the long term. This allows Cincinnati maximum flexibility to double-down and sign AJ Green and Andy Dalton long term (presumably the game plan), though likely not in the same year.
Dec 22, 2013; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) runs onto the field prior to the start of the game against the New Orleans Saints at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports
Contrast this against the Panthers who are in a similar situation. Cam Newton will likely earn a significant pay-day should win their way into the NFC Championship. Both Carolina and Cincinnati are $106 and $107 against the cap going into 2014.
While a comparison of potential signings for next year shows that both teams have significant decisions to make, the reality is that inking either Dalton or Newton will make retaining the talent that is propelling these teams into the playoffs will be problematic.