When Bengals owner Mike Brown recently said that quarterback Andy Dalton was worth a new deal similar to the one 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick recently inked, he wasn't kidding around. On Monday morning, ESPN's Adam Schefter and Adam Caplan broke the news that the Bengals and Dalton had agreed to a new six-year, $115 million contract extension that will ostensibly keep Dalton in Cincy through the 2020 season. Kaepernick signed a seven-year, $126.97 million extension on June 4.
“It’s great that the Bengals have shown this confidence in me,” Dalton said in a statement released by the team. This is only a beginning. We have higher goals than just making the playoffs, and it’s my job to lead us there.”
Of course, all NFL contracts have numerous escape clauses for the teams involved, and the initial details are coming out. According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, Dalton will receive a $12 million signing bonus and a $5 million roster bonus on Thursday. Thus, Dalton will get more money up front than Kaepernick did -- Kaepernick's guarantee was $13.073 million at signing. In the bigger picture, it's likely that the Dalton deal is like Kaepernick's in that it will be more of a "pay-as-you-go" deal in which the team can cut loose from the contract down the road if Dalton doesn't measure up. In truth, it's a six-year, $96 million deal with incentives that could push it up to the $115 million mark.
Pro Football Talk has more of the details. Add in Dalton's $968,000 base salary for 2014, and he'll make $18 million overall in the first year of the deal. In 2015, he gets a $4 million roster bonus and a $3 million non-guaranteed base salary. If he's on the roster, that's a total of $25 million in the first two years. Then, the base salaries go up to $10.5 million in 2016, $13.1 million in 2017, $13.7 million in 2018, $16 million in 2019, and $17.5 million in 2020.
The incentives relate to postseason success: $1 million for every appearance in a divisional playoff game, $500,000 more for every appearance in a conference championship game, and $1.5 million for every appearance in a Super Bowl. And those aren't one-year bumps -- if the Bengals were to win the Super Bowl next season and Dalton appears in at least 80 percent of the snaps, Dalton gets $3 million more per year in every year of the deal. But outside of that, it appears that the structure is easy enough for the Bengals to bail on if need be -- at least, after that first-year bump.
Those in favor of such a long-term deal for Dalton could point out that the TCU alum, selected in the second round of the 2011 draft, became just the third quarterback in NFL history to throw at least 80 touchdown passes in his first three seasons -- Peyton Manning and Dan Marino are the other two. Dalton is also the fourth quarterback in league annals to make the playoffs in each of his first three seasons. He set the franchise record for touchdown passes in 2013 with 33, and if you're into quarterback wins as a stat, Dalton is the only Bengals signal-caller to win 30 games in his first three years (he sports a 30-18 career record).
Those opposed to this kind of extension might note that the cap charge could prevent the team from handing out new deals to other valuable players, including receiver A.J. Green, who was selected in the first round of the 2011 draft, and who tends to make Dalton look a bit better than he actually is with his acrobatic catches of Dalton's occasionally errant deep balls. And there's the matter of Dalton's performances in the playoffs -- in three playoff games (all losses), Dalton has completed 70-of-123 passes for 718 yards, one touchdown and six interceptions.
Those in the building certainly seem to be in favor of this commitment to Dalton.
“We came in together. That’s my guy. He helped me where I am. I helped him and we took the Bengals to a different level,” Green told the team's official website of Dalton in July. “The Bengals were losing a lot before we came. I feel like we turned it around ... A lot of people give him crap about not winning a playoff game, but we’ve made the playoffs the last three seasons. We’ve won 10 or more games [twice]. Playoff games … we’re still young. I feel like we’re going to win them, it just takes time.”
Head coach Marvin Lewis agrees.
"I feel Andy is the quarterback that can lead this team into the playoffs, through the playoffs, and win the ultimate game," Lewis recently said. "When he does that, everyone will shut up. And that's what every quarterback has to do. Unfortunately, that's where they're held. They're held in such high regard, he's being compared to some guys who, as far as skillset and so forth, didn't have to do what he had to do, come in and play like he had to play, and play without an offseason, and all the things that occurred with him. But he's handled it very well. All he's done is continued to play better and better, and all he has to do is keep doing that."
It could be that the Bengals are ready to turn that corner, but before that happens, Dalton will have to do some work. First of all, he's pretty rotten when pressured. Football Outsiders' charting metrics have him with a 43.1 percent DVOA (FO's opponent-adjusted efficiency metric) when he's not pressured, which puts him 22nd in the league. Not bad, not great. But on the 71 plays where he was pressured in 2013, Dalton had a horrid minus-66.7 percent DVOA, and his yards per pass plummeted from 8.1 to 3.4. In addition, he threw six red zone interceptions in 2013 after throwing none in his first two seasons. However, he was better on deep passes overall last year, going 31-of-86 with 14 touchdowns and five picks on passes traveling 20 or more yards in the air.
As long as the numbers on the deal are team-friendly (and they appear to be), the Bengals probably did the right thing -- if they understand a few playoff wins won't make him a true franchise quarterback.
As always, the truth lies in the numbers.