The Cincinnati Bengals are not facing a unique situation when it comes to extending quarterback Andy Dalton. Team owner Mike Brown spoke with Paul Dehner Jr. of Cincinnati.com just before the league meetings in Florida and talked about the difficulty of getting Dalton -- a young, promising quarterback -- signed to an extension.
Brown's primary concern seemed to be not knowing whether a deal will get done. His quotes weren't surprising at all, but they seemed tinged with frustration.
Dalton's four-year rookie contract expires after next season, and he is expected to receive a significant pay raise. Dalton fits the mold of a franchise quarterback, but to this point it's unclear where his ceiling is, and that's where the dilemma comes in for the Bengals. Franchise quarterbacks, regardless of what they've done thus far in the league, are getting a ton of money.
Whether those quarterbacks have been putting up great stats is a different matter. If they are young, starting and plan to be starting for the next several years, they're getting paid big money. Joe Flacco, despite never posting overwhelmingly positive numbers, received one of the largest contracts in NFL history with his new contract last offseason. There are multiple other players looking for big extensions, as well.
Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers, Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks, Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers and Andrew Luck of the Indianapolis Colts will all be looking for top dollar. Cincinnati may or may not consider Dalton in the same league as those quarterbacks, but he's got the "franchise" label attached to him, so he'll certainly get paid like they're expected to.
Brown said it's "hard to know" why the price for quarterbacks continues to rise, saying that there have been "more bad deals than good deals from a club's perspective."
"With quarterbacks there is another dilemma. With a fixed cap there is a certain amount of money and no more," Brown said. "You allocate that on a quarterback you have less to hand out to everybody else. It can cause attrition. We are going through a difficult time right now because we are trying to work through a deal with Andy and trying to hold back enough money in the cap to do that, yet we don't know what that is."
What Brown is suggesting is that the Bengals cannot sign guys in free agency right now because they're unsure what an extension will look like. By passing on talent, they may be able to get Dalton signed as planned and everything will be great. On the other hand, if the Dalton deal doesn't go down, then the Bengals passed up free agents for no reason.
Brown made it clear that what the Bengals are trying to do is get Dalton signed to an extension, though he added that he doesn't know "if we are going to be able to or not." Note: Brown was asked about wide receiver A.J. Green and was confident that Green would be back under every circumstance, even if the team had to put the franchise tag on him.
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That's likely because Green has performed exceptionally well in bigger games. Dalton has made the Bengals better each season, but he continues to struggle in the playoffs. Players like Luck, Kaepernick and Wilson are winning the big games and their big deals are set in stone as a result. Kaepernick will get a huge extension this offseason, and both Luck and Wilson will not be far behind.
In three playoff games, Dalton has posted completion percentages of 64.3, 46.7 and 56.9. He has posted one touchdown to six interceptions in those big games to go with three fumbles. Over three years worth of regular season games, he has a completion percentage of 60.9 and 80 touchdown passes against 49 interceptions. Unfortunately for Dalton, he is thus far a much different quarterback in the regular season than postseason.
On Tuesday, head coach Marvin Lewis also gave his input on Dalton and was much clearer than Brown: he wants Dalton extended, and sooner rather than later. He wants Dalton to get over the playoff losses and focus on football. Lewis doesn't want Dalton to go into the season and "worry about this contract thing," according to another report from Dehner.
It's unclear when Dalton will end up signing an extension, but the Bengals want to get a deal done. As to what his extension will look like, that's anybody's guess. Dalton could receive a shorter extension with a modest pay raise in transition to a bigger contract, but it's unclear if that's the team's intention or not.