Sticking with Red: Re-Examining Andy Dalton’s 2013 Contract

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Oct 5, 2014; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) greets Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton (14) after the game at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots defeated the Bengals 43-17. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Digressions aside, Dalton is the anomaly among quarterbacks signed to big contracts in the past five years.  Matt Ryan (13.6%), Cam Newton (9.1%), and Colin Kaepernick (10.7%) all command meaty portions of their teams budget and offer huge cap slaps if they are given their pink slips.  Notably, each of those percentages steadily increases over the next three years, as does their associated dead cap number.  Eli Manning has absorbed 16.8%, 15.3%, and 13.8% of the Giants’ cap space in the years since 2012; a cautionary tale when one looks back at the decimation of their roster since Super Bowl XLVI.  Russell Wilson and Andrew Luck are both due large paydays as well, and expectations are that their contract will mirror the high-profile, big-dollar deals that currently remain the precedent in the NFL.  It will be interesting to see how those contracts impact the franchise’s success over the long term.

Rather than Flacco, Dalton could be compared to New England’s Tom Brady whose contract restructure takes only 9.8% of the Patriots cap, far beneath other elite quarterbacks like Drew Brees (18.4%), Peyton Manning (12.2%), or Aaron Rodgers (12.8%).  Like Brady, Dalton’s contract takes less so the team may take more.  Strangely enough, like the Packers, the Bengals maintain a system that develops and retains drafted talent.  Both teams also have deeply tenured head coaches, which lends each franchise the unique ability to create a true “team” environment; a heavy challenge in today’s ‘win now’ NFL.  Is it grandiose to say that Dalton’s contract is the lynchpin to the Bengals developing their own “Patriot Way?”  Perhaps that’s not so far off.

Regardless, the point is that Dalton’s contract protects more than it places him at risk because it allows the Bengals to sign essentially all their other desired talent to long-term contracts over the next two-to-three years.  The only scenario where it makes sense financially to cut Dalton would be if he drags them down so low that they are picking in the top five of the NFL Draft in 2015.  Besides, even if an ‘elite’ quarterback were to fall into the Bengals’ lap during next year’s free agency, the likelihood that this theoretical player would not take a loaded contract a la Cam Newton or Andrew Luck is almost non-existent.

No, fans and friends; Andy Dalton will be around for a while, and when it’s all said and done, you’ll be glad that it was so.

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