The Cincinnati Bengals announced today that fourth year quarterback Andy Dalton has signed an enormous six-year extension worth nearly $115 million including bonuses. At first look, it seems as if the Bengals overpaid by a lot, and based on Dalton’s play in his first three seasons, that is a justified stance to take. However, this deal was dictated by a quarterback market, where numbers like this are becoming more of the norm.
This is the old saying in the world of sports: “A player never gets paid what they deserve, but rather what someone is willing to pay them.” Andy Dalton is very lucky the Bengals were willing to pay him what they did. Cincinnati had a decision to make with regards to their quarterback: Either let him test the market in a year when his rookie contract ran out or give him this type of mega deal that really falls in line with the current quarterback market in the NFL. If he did test the free agent market after the 2014 season, he would likely be able to command a similar deal based on what other quarterbacks like Matt Stafford, Jay Cutler, and Tony Romo have gotten in recent years. So giving Dalton the deal they did was most likely Cincinnati’s only option if they wanted to hold onto what they believe is their quarterback of the future.
Andy Dalton has shown improvement in the regular season in each of his first three seasons in the NFL and that fact led, in part, to his enormous new deal. The problem for onlookers who doubt he can live up to this contract is the fact that in each of his playoff appearances, he has woefully underperformed. It does bode well for his career that the former TCU QB has made the playoffs in each of his first three seasons. Before Dalton arrived, the Bengals were in desperate need of success in consecutive seasons and that is what he has brought, at least in the regular season. The Bengals clearly see potential in their QB and decided to not wait for a potential Joe Flacco contract situation to happen. Flacco did not get an extension before the 2012 season and then went onto win the Super Bowl that season, dramatically increasing his market value.
The first reactions of the average person when they see this deal is that it seems like a gross overpayment for what Dalton has proved so far, but when breaking down the deal, it actually favors the Bengals…at least the first two seasons. He gets a $12 million signing bonus this season and a roster bonus added to his base salary, earning him $18 million. However, next season he has a non-guaranteed $3 million base salary and a $4 million roster bonus in March, earning him $25 million over the first two season of the deal. For Cincinnati, that is a very friendly two seasons when compared to other teams who will be paying their quarterbacks nearly $40 million over the next two seasons. Going forward from 2016, the large base salaries kick in on Dalton’s deal, but if he does not show improvement, the Bengals could cut ties and test either the draft or free agency for a new QB.
Andy Dalton’s new contract extension really increases the price for quarterbacks hitting the market over the next few years. Quarterbacks like Cam Newton, Nick Foles, Andrew Luck, and especially Russell Wilson will really like the sight of this deal, considering they will likely be able to command more money than Dalton. Wilson could realistically command the biggest deal in NFL history given his early success and potential for the future. It seems as if the market will eventually have to level out, but as of now, average quarterbacks like Dalton are commanding huge sums of money.
The quarterback contract market in the NFL is increasing dramatically and the latest benefactor is Cincinnati Bengals QB Andy Dalton. His deal may seem like an overpayment, but considering the market, it was something the Bengals had to do to keep the QB they obviously have a lot of faith in.
Commentary by Max Petkevicius