Is this Veteran Quarterback the Best Bargain on the NFL Free-Agent Market?
Despite the current delays happening in professional sports, including the NFL, free agency and the draft will cause a domino effect of changes in signal callers for many teams across the league. Whether or it be newly signed, drafted or traded for talent, there are sure to be a number of changes. Despite all of the available options, it’s becoming increasingly more likely that the best value could be veteran Andy Dalton.
Since being selected in the second round of the 2011 draft out of TCU by the Cincinnati Bengals, Dalton has been their starter, encompassing 133 games over nine seasons. During that time, he has led his team to four playoff appearances (all one and done), while passing for 31,594 yards, 204 touchdowns and 118 interceptions. While that is more than adequate resume, the team is about to move on from him. Possessing the first pick in this year’s draft, they are expected to grab Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow out of LSU and immediately give him the keys to the car.
Dalton’s current contract has another year and $17.7 million remaining. The Bengals are already expected to pursue a trade for him, so they can use the savings to offset the franchise tag they placed on wide receiver A.J. Green. About to turn 33 late this fall, “The Red Rifle” should still have some good ball left in him and is a reasonable financial expenditure for a new team, who then will have the luxury of auditioning over a full season for a longer-term role.
Dalton is an efficient quarterback, having completed 62% of his passes during his career. He is also strong under pressure, having authored 20 fourth-quarter comebacks and 24 game-winning drives. His kryptonite has been turnovers, as the 164 turnovers (118 picks and 46 fumbles) mean that ball security isn’t his strongest skill. By comparison, Tom Brady (79) and Aaron Rodgers (101), probably the two best NFL quarterbacks during the past nine years, lag well behind with their own turnover totals in the same time span.
It’s not unreasonable to think that an improved offensive line and some changes in the game plan could divert Dalton away from situations that are more conducive to turnovers and play more to his strengths. The thing is, he really does have strengths. His 87.5 career passer rating is tied with Jeff Garcia for 28th all time; better than Dan Marino (86.4), Brett Favre (86.0) and Jim Kelly (84.4). No, he is not a future Hall of Famer, but he is somebody more than capable of leading a team, including one with playoff aspirations.
Dalton is a valuable asset right now for any team in need of a ready-made quarterback. He is proven, has a big arm and has worked with prime-time receivers like Green. He is not only in a situation in 2020 where he is attempting to establish his long-term value for his next contract, but he is at the stage of his career where making his presence known in the offseason is likely becoming more and more urgent. Those who followed Ryan Tannehill’s emergence with the Tennessee Titans this past season have a very nice comparison if they are looking for any recent similar situations and the potential they may have.
If the Bengals do trade Dalton, as is widely expected, there will be no shortage of teams hoping to snare the veteran. With there being so few certainties in the NFL, it is a near guarantee that any team the quarterback suits up for will get a solid performance with the potential for more when they put him under center. With the ability to closely monitor his progress and possibly give him a long-term extension, he appears to currently be one of the best bargains on the market.