Not only are the Bengals planning to trade Dalton, but in a rarity, the team is reportedly going to work with the quarterback to facilitate a trade, which means Dalton is basically as close as you can be to being a free agent without actually being a free agent. Basically, it sounds like the Bengals will let Dalton’s camp find a team that wants the quarterback, and then try to work out a trade from there.
The fact that the Bengals are playing nice with their quarterback is no surprise. The team’s director of player personnel Duke Tobin, who serves as the de facto general manager in Cincinnati, made it clear in January that the Bengals wouldn’t put Dalton in a situation that he’s “uncomfortable with.”
“I can tell you one thing, what Andy Dalton’s done for the Cincinnati Bengals is not something that we’re going to forget,” Tobin told NFL.com. “We’re not going to just willy-nilly, make something happen with him that, a) he’s uncomfortable with and, b) that we’re uncomfortable with.”
If Dalton doesn’t demand a new deal as part of a potential trade, then it should make him pretty easy to deal, and that’s because he has one of the most team-friendly quarterback contracts in the NFL. The Red Rifle only has one year left on his current deal and the cap hit for that one year is just $17.7 million, which is a bargain for a starting quarterback.
Dalton has proven he can win with with talent around him. When the Bengals went 12-4 in 2015, Dalton was a strong MVP candidate before an injury ended his season.
Of course, Dalton is also the ultimate quarterback enigma. If you want to start an argument this weekend, just go up to someone at a bar and ask them if Andy Dalton’s any good. On one hand, you have the fact that he led his team to five straight playoff appearances, which isn’t easy to do in a league that prides itself on parity. On the other hand, he’s never won a playoff game. Dalton is also the only quarterback in NFL history to start a season both 8-0 and 0-8, which basically sums up his career perfectly.
So which teams should think about trading for Dalton?
Let’s rank the top-five.
The Bears quarterback situation has gotten so bad over the past two years that some fans in Chicago seem to be accepting the fact that Dalton might actually be a better option for them at the position.
The idea of the Bears giving up on Mitchell Trubisky after just three seasons might seem crazy, but if the Bears feel like they’re a quarterback away from potentially making the Super Bowl, then it’s a deal they should absolutely think about making.
One reason the Bears make a lot of sense as a landing spot for Dalton is because the team just hired former Bengals offensive coordinator Bill Lazor to fill the same position in Chicago. Lazor worked with Dalton for three seasons in Cincinnati (QB coach in 2016, OC in 2017 and 2018), so he knows exactly what the Carrot Top Cannon is capable of. If Lazor feels that Dalton would be an upgrade over Trubisky, then the move seems like a no-brainer for Chicago.
The fact that Dalton only has one year left on his deal should make this trade even more enticing for the Bears. For one, you could let the two quarterbacks battle it out in training camp knowing that you could let the loser walk after the 2020 season without taking any sort of cap hit. Also, having both quarterbacks on the roster would be relatively cheap. In an era where quarterbacks make more than $30 million per year, Trubisky and Dalton will only have a cap hit of $26.9 million combined in 2020.
Although the Bucs could try to re-sign Jameis Winston this offseason, that probably wouldn’t be a good thing for the health of anyone in Tampa Bay, because watching Winston is basically the equivalent of having a three-hour anxiety attack every Sunday. The quarterback threw 30 interceptions in 2019, including an NFL-record seven pick-sixes. Those are ugly numbers, and it won’t be shocking if coach Bruce Arians looks for a quarterback this offseason who doesn’t turn the ball over on every other play, which could make Dalton an enticing option.
During his last stint as a head coach, Arians revived the Arizona Cardinals when he made a trade for a former Bengals quarterback and it wouldn’t be surprising if he tried to repeat history in Tampa. In 2013, Arians made a trade for Carson Palmer, and the two ended up making two playoff appearances together, including a trip to the NFC title game in 2015.
The Buccaneers currently have a situation that Dalton could thrive in. The team’s offensive weapons include players like Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate, which should make it easy for Dalton to put up big numbers.
One advantage that comes with adding Dalton is that his salary will only be $17.7 million for 2020, which is important to note, because if the Bucs go after a free agent quarterback, they’ll likely be paying more than $30 million per year.
If Tom Brady decides to leave New England, you can bet Bill Belichick won’t be caught blindsided by the move, especially after what happened with Rob Gronkowski. During the 2019 offseason, Gronk’s retirement caught the Patriots off-guard and they were never really able to find a replacement for him since his announcement came well after the meat of free agency.
With Brady out of the picture, bringing in a quarterback like Dalton would make the most sense. Although there will be multiple intriguing options at quarterback, you have to think the Patriots would stay far away from gunslingers like Philip Rivers or Jameis Winston. Belichick hates turnovers and those two turn the ball over like it’s their job.
Dalton is a quarterback the Patriots could quickly mold into exactly what they need, which is something New England has actually been pretty good at. Over the past 19 years, Brady has only missed 19 games due to suspension or injury and the Patriots have gone 13-6 in those games. Dalton isn’t going to be able to carry an offense, but he can he a solid game manager, and since the Patriots have such a strong defense, a solid game manager might be all they need to compete for a Super Bowl in 2020.
4a. Los Angeles Chargers
These two teams are bunched together, because they’re both in a similar situation: They both might view the addition of Dalton as a lateral move from the quarterback they already have. In Indianapolis, although Dalton is arguably a small step up from Jacoby Brissett, Colts coach Frank Reich might not feel like it’s a big enough jump in talent to justify making a trade.
The same thing applies in Los Angeles, where Tyrod Taylor is currently penciled in as the starter. The Chargers are also trying to sell tickets in a brand new stadium and adding someone like Dalton isn’t exactly a sexy move that’s going to get fans to break out their wallet.
As for the Colts, Dalton could potentially thrive in an offense that has multiple weapons like T.Y. Hilton and Parris Campbell. The Colts also have Marlon Mack in the backfield, which means Dalton wouldn’t have to carry the offense. Both teams would be a fit for Dalton, but it wouldn’t be surprising if both look to free agency, and the Chargers might also look to take someone in the draft.
If Dalton is in charge of facilitating a trade, he probably wouldn’t be too thrilled with going to Carolina, and that’s mostly because the Panthers seem like a team that will be rebuilding in 2020. Despite that, Dalton could potentially thrive with the Panthers and that’s because their offense was basically a sleeping giant in 2019. With guys like Christian McCaffrey and D.J. Moore, the Panthers had the weapons to compete, they just didn’t have a quarterback who could take advantage of them due to Cam Newton’s injuries and Kyle Allen’s inability to do anything. If the Panthers decide to dump Newton, Dalton would be the perfect gap year quarterback. It would allow Carolina to either draft a quarterback in 2020 or 2021 and set them up for the future. On the other hand, if Dalton were to surprise everyone in 2020 and lead the Panthers to the playoffs, then Carolina would be in a spot where they could give him an extension after the season.
It might be odd to see the Saints on this list, but let’s be honest, they don’t currently have any quarterbacks under contract. At this point, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Drew Brees retire, which would open the door for Taysom Hill or Teddy Bridgewater in New Orleans. On Bridgewater’s end, he’s most likely going to test free agency, and there’s a good chance he’ll be getting a contract offer that will price the Saints out of any bidding war. As for Hill, although coach Sean Payton has spent the past year telling anyone who will listen how amazing Taysom Hill is, the fact of the matter is that when he had a chance to start Hill during the 2019 season, he went with Bridgewater instead. During the five weeks that Brees missed last season, Bridgewater was the starter in all five games and went 5-0.
If Payton is serious about making Hill the starter, then bringing in Dalton would make some sense. If Hill can’t handle the rigors of starting an entire NFL season — after all, he’s only thrown 13 passes in his career — then the Saints would have Dalton to turn to as an insurance policy.