Andy Dalton cashes in with $115 million Bengals extension; now he must win a playoff game


(Al Behrman / AP)

Andy Dalton is going to be paid — in a very big way — by the Cincinnati Bengals.

The quarterback, who was entering the last year of his rookie contract, and the team have reached agreement on a six-year contract extension worth $115 million, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. It isn’t yet clear how much is guaranteed or whether this is the kind of pay-as-you-go deal Colin Kaepernick got in San Francisco.

Albert Breer of the NFL Network reports that the contract is for $96 million over six years, with $19 million coming from incentives.

Dalton has been a solid regular-season starter for the Bengals, a team that traditionally wilts come playoff time. Even before his gaudy new extension, Dalton was facing pressure to raise his game with an 0-3 postseason record. Grantland’s Bill Barnwell broke down Dalton’s strengths and weaknesses, which are exposed by big blitzes, in determining whether he deserves a big new contract. He is bound to be helped by a shift from Jay Gruden to Hue Jackson at offensive coordinator:

It’s hard to say whether it’s even possible for Dalton to improve. Handling the pass rush could be an innate thing, or something you have to learn at the NCAA level before having any hope of doing so at NFL speed. We don’t have enough data to provide examples of guys who struggled with blitzes at the beginning of their careers before rapidly improving, and anecdotal examples aren’t coming to mind. It’s easier to think of players like David Carr and Patrick Ramsey, passers who were hit so many times at the beginning of their careers that they seemed to get contact-shy and never got back on track. Dalton will have a new offensive coordinator this offseason in Jackson, who will shift Gruden’s version of the West Coast offense into a more run-oriented scheme. That could help keep Dalton out of obvious passing situations, but the switch also makes it more likely Dalton will line up under center and take more traditional dropbacks, from which it’s harder to see the field and make the sort of quick passes that eliminate the possibility of pressure. In any case, after three seasons at the helm, there’s no Dalton excuse that will satisfy his critics. Nothing short of a playoff win will justify a big new contract for Dalton in Cincinnati. And that playoff win is going to be hard to come by unless Dalton can handle the rush.

After spending most of her career in traditional print sports journalism, Cindy began blogging and tweeting, first as NFL/Redskins editor, and, since August 2010, at The Early Lead. She also is the social media editor for Sports.
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