Andy Dalton Contract: Horrendous or Actually Kinda Defensible?

We all thought the Joe Flacco contract was bad, and that’s before he made plays like this in the 2013 season (sorry for the horrible soundtrack, believe me, I didn’t make it):

Flacco received a 6 year, $120.6 million deal because of one postseason (we have to admit, it was one hell of a postseason), and he has become easily the most overplayed player in the league — until earlier today, when the Bengals were smoking something that would probably get Josh Gordon suspended forever and a day, as they decided to give Andy Dalton what was reported to be a 6 year, $115 million contract. Here was my reaction:

patrick spongebob surprised

(Note: That’s the first Spongebob reference for this site.  I’m very proud of myself.)

But actually, while the deal appears terrible at first glance, it might be not only “not atrocious,” but actually pretty fair — which is more than we can say about the Flacco contract, for example.

First, the contract is actually “just” $96 million over 6 years.  Still is a bit too much, but a difference in over $3 million per year on the cap is something that no football team or fan should sneeze at.

Second, this is not structured anything like the Joe Flacco deal, but more like Colin Kaepernick’s, as Pro Football Talk points out beautifully in this piece.

After the first 2 years that have all the guaranteed money (especially 2014), Dalton is playing on the type of year to year gamble of a contract that Kaepernick will face.  And Kaepernick is a better quarterback by anyone’s standards, meaning that Dalton has chosen to take more of a risk than Mr. Bicep Kiss did.  It’s also interesting, as PFT notes, that Dalton rejected the injury-only insurance, which seems pretty smart becasue he’s never missed a start, and hasn’t even been on the injury report since game 1 of the 2012 season.  Even compared to a guy like Tom Brady, who’s durable as fuck but used to be on the injury report every week with a right shoulder issue, Dalton seems like he’s made of steel.

All this highlights that Andy Dalton was willing to take a big risk on himself, similar to Kaepernick, and the Bengals aren’t taking nearly as much of a risk we we thought when we originally saw “6 years, $115 million.”  Common perception is going to be, “Well, starting in 2016, are the Bengals really going to just release him and move on?  You can’t leave a team without a quarterback in today’s pass-heavy NFL.  They’re gonna have to keep him at that price point, guaranteed or not.”  But NFL teams don’t have to work that way, and they rarely do.  When a team has all that leverage, they’ll likely use it to renegotiate with a guy like Dalton.  Also, by 2016, Dalton’s salary will be $10.5 million.  Considering that the cap should rise a little bit more, that’s far from insane for a QB, even if Dalton doesn’t improve upon what he is now.  It’s only 2020, when he’ll be 33, where that salary looks a little more frightening: $17.5 million.

With all this, I’m still not a fan of giving Andy Dalton $17 million up front, but he is a quarterback, and I’ve heard they tend to get a lot of money.  The Bengals are fine on the salary cap for 2014 (or else they wouldn’t have made the deal), and it looks like Dalton’s cap hit for 2015 will be only in the $9-11 million range, which is pretty fair.  Dalton could be as horrible in 2014 as he was in the 2nd half against the Chargers last January, making 2015 into a possible disaster at QB for the Bengals, both in terms of actual play and cap hit.  But it seems like a worthwhile risk for the Bengals.  And they can owe it all to the fact that the NFL doesn’t have guaranteed contracts.  Joe Flacco will have to be content with having the worst QB contract for a little while longer.


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