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When You’re The Bengals, You Have To Pay Andy Dalton

The Bengals have a long history of lousy quarterbacks and when they got a chance to lock down a half-decent Andy Dalton, they took it.

Andy Dalton

The Cincinnati Bengals weren’t able to draft Cam Newton during the 2011 NFL Draft. Peyton Manning didn’t choose to sign with the team when he was a free agent prior to the 2013 season.

In fact, over the past 20 years, Carson Palmer has been the best quarterback to don a Bengals uniform. And he chose to abruptly retire from professional football rather than continue his career there.

It’s been a long time since Boomer Esiason was quarterbacking the Bengals. There’s been Akili Smiths and Jon Kitnas, Jeff Blakes and Gus Frerottes.

So it’s no wonder why the Bengals were more than willing to open their checkbook for Andy Dalton.

Teams that have been starved for quarterbacks — Miami, Buffalo, Oakland, you guys know what I’m talking about — need to appreciate the ones they’ve got. No matter how mediocre or limited they may be compared to the Tom Bradys and Aaron Rodgers of the league, they’re still the best they’ve seen play in their part of town.

Monday, the Bengals announced a six-year, $115 million contract extension for Dalton, one that’ll pay the quarterback $22 million within the first six months and is worth a total of $96 million, and $16 million per year.

Many eyes were opened when they came across this news, but it should not have come to a surprise to anybody. The Bengals were not going to lose Dalton, the most promising quarterback they’ve had since Palmer. And the only way to keep him happy (and in town) was to pay him the market value.

They can thank the Baltimore Ravens, who set the market for mid-tier quarterbacks when they dished out a load of cash to Joe Flacco last offseason.

But in today’s NFL, there is a market price for every player, especially at the quarterback position. If the Kansas City Chiefs want Alex Smith back, they’re going to have to overspend. So will St. Louis and Tennessee, potentially. And if you want that player, you have to pay him at that price, otherwise somebody else will.

So what did Cincinnati drop $96 million on?

Dalton has led the team to the postseason each of his first three seasons, but the Bengals have been bounced out in the first round all three times.

Among NFL starters, Dalton finished seventh with 4,293 passing yards, and a 33:20 touchdown-to-interception ratio. He completed 61.9 percent of his passes, right on par with Newton, the No. 1 quarterback taken in that ’11 draft.

But where Dalton struggles the most is with handling pressure.

Without a rush, Dalton owns a 59.6 career QBR. In 2013, his QBR (55.8) was good for the 15th-best — again, not too distant from that Newton guy and a smidge above the likes of Ben Roethlisberger and Matthew Stafford.

But when he’s facing a pass rush, Dalton’s career QBR drops 48.5 percent to 11.1, which ranks in the same category of Mark Sanchez (2.6), Sam Bradford (4.8) and Brandon Weeden (4.6). By the way, only one of those three players has a starting job right now, and it’s very much in the air.

And actually, Blaine Gabbert has a better mark against a pass rush than Dalton does.

What do those stats prove? Well, it shows that despite his limitations, Dalton has helped pilot a playoff team three years in a row. And let’s not forget he has room to grow and improve, and all reports out of Bengals camp is that Dalton has thriving under new offensive coordinator Hue Jackson.

Dalton will very likely never be Drew Brees or Tom Brady, but so far he’s done his job of helping the Bengals win games. That’s something not a lot of other quarterbacks have been able to say over the past two decades.

So while the Bengals may get eaten up and spit out for paying him such a large sum of money, the team was only following what the market dictated. They wanted their quarterback, and they needed to pay him accordingly.

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