Longtime Bengals starter Andy Dalton was forthright in his displeasure with the team for not attempting to trade him before benching him this week, and eagerly anticipates an offseason trade, league sources said. Dalton, the second-highest passer in franchise history who is tied for the Bengals' record for touchdown passes (197), will have a viable trade market, several GMs said, and should land a second-round pick in return.
Dalton, 32, has just one year left on his team-friendly contract, worth $17.5 million next season -- less than the likes of Brock Osweiler was recently earning and a bargain for a mid-range starting quarterback. Dalton has been a model citizen and productive, though not sensational, passer, and he shined earlier in his career when the Bengals still has a solid cast of linemen and pass catchers around him. He has been healthy, is well liked around the league, and evaluators I spoke to believe he would be far better positioned than other veteran quarterback options in 2020, like potential free agents Marcus Mariota, Jameis Winston, Eli Manning and Joe Flacco.
Tampa Bay coach Bruce Arians was very high on Dalton through his draft process, and the Buccaneers have amassed one of the better collections of receivers and tight ends in the NFL, and also have a solid offensive line. With Arians formerly retired and at a stage in his career where rebuilding with a rookie quarterback might not be ideal, several GMs identified Tampa as a strong landing spot for Dalton, with Winston struggling in the final year of his deal. Dalton, like Winston, has had issues with turnovers at times, but has also shown to be a highly functional and winning QB with some pieces around him.
The Titans and Bears could also be in the market for a 30-something proven veteran quarterback given the failures of their recent first-round picks. Dalton might also make sense for a team like the Chargers or the Patriots should their esteemed quarterbacks retire. Regardless, he has no future in Cincinnati and is hopeful the team engages wholeheartedly in trade talks at the combine in February, sources said, after team officials essentially sat out last week's trade deadline despite possessing a bevy of players other teams were interested in.
Dalton started all 16 games for the Bengals as a rookie in 2011 after being selected in the second round and started 16 games or more in six of his eight prior seasons with the club, barely missing a snap. He started all eight games this year for the winless club and was coming off his best outing of the season, against the Rams in London, before being benched for rookie Ryan Finley midweek.
Rookie head coach Zac Taylor, handed a poor roster that was riddled by injuries on the offensive side of the ball, always faced a crossroads at the quarterback position, with the team in need of a rebuild and Dalton nearing the end of his contract. He and his staff are very high on Finley, and with the season already essentially over, and the Bengals about to land perhaps the first-overall pick, they naturally wanted to get a look at the youngster before deciding whether to invest that top pick on a passer.