When the news broke Monday that the Bengals had rewarded quarterback Andy Dalton with a six-year, $115 million deal, the Internet went into meltdown mode (see the comments here, for example). Fans couldn't imagine why anyone would give Dalton, who is 30-18 as a starter but 0-3 in the postseason, that kind of money.
But the devil, as they say, is in the details.
A closer look at Dalton's contract suggests the Bengals paid him like a second-tier quarterback, which, frankly, is exactly what he is. The deal includes a $12 million signing bonus and $17 million guaranteed.
As CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora noted, all of the fully guaranteed money comes in the first year of the deal. Dalton will make $18 million guaranteed this season and $22 million by February.
Beyond that, the contract is essentially pay as you go. The team will have protections from a cap and cash standpoint should they choose to move on after a few years. In the meantime, Dalton gets a life-altering chunk of money within the first 6-7 months of signing the deal.
Relatively speaking, the deal made a lot of sense for both sides. Dalton's not a franchise quarterback in the mold of Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees or Peyton Manning, but a young passer who is reliable, efficient, and fits nicely into the Bengals' offense. And he was compensated as such.
Looking at the table below, it's clear just where Dalton ranks among the NFL's highest-paid quarterbacks -- and we're not just talking about salary. Take a look at the "percentage of the total value of the contract that is guaranteed" column ("Pct. guaranteed").
Of the 17 passers earning the biggest salaries, Dalton ranks next to last -- ahead of only Colin Kaepernick -- in terms of the percentage of the total contract that's guaranteed (17.7 percent). Meanwhile, names like Rodgers, Ryan, Brees and Brady have between 40-58 percent of their total contracts guaranteed.
The takeaway: The Bengals are clearly high on Dalton but he isn't in the same conversation as Ryan or Rodgers, two relatively young passers whose consistency and playmaking ability have left little doubt in the minds of their organizations about their worth relative to the rest of the league.
And this isn't a knock on Dalton, just proof that all six-year, $115 million deals aren't created equally. Put another way, courtesy of the Cincinnati Enquirer's Paul Dehner:
To all those who say they hate Dalton, I always answer wondering who they think should replace him?— Paul Dehner Jr. (@pauldehnerjr) August 4, 2014
Anybody who watched the #Bengals in the 90s or Browns since return know what it's like NOT having even an average QB.— Paul Dehner Jr. (@pauldehnerjr) August 4, 2014