After unceremoniously dumping Andy Dalton out of his starting quarterback role on his birthday, the Cincinnati Bengals are ready to make amends. Credit Thanksgiving, I guess.
NFL Network insider Tom Pelisseo tweets that Dalton is getting his gig back starting this Sunday against the Jets.
It has certainly been rough sledding for the Bengals since Ryan Finley took over. The rookie from North Carolina State has completed just 47.1 percent of his passes, averaged 158 passing yards per game, and has posted a dreadful 62.1 passer rating in his three stars. That is a significant drop in production from Dalton, who was having a down year in his own right having completed just 60.4% of his passes with a 79.2 passer rating in the first eight games of the season.
Going back to Dalton is a win-now move for the winless Bengals, but also essentially confirms the team’s long-term plans at the position. Because while Head Coach Zac Taylor publicly backs Finley as someone who has a bright future in Cincinnati, it is obvious the powers that be have seen everything they needed from the young quarterback for now. Moving forward, it would be the shock of the century if the Bengals didn’t turn their first-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft into the best quarterback available on their draft board.
All that’s to say I’m not sure how this will impact Dalton’s future. Remember, Dalton still has one year left on his contract after this season. That means the team has some options to play with this offseason.
For example, the Bengals could conceivably keep Dalton around for a year as the bridge to Joe Burrow/Tua Tagovailoa/Justin Herbert. Or they could move on from Dalton by trade, extracting a future draft pick or some other asset in exchange for one year of a proven veteran quarterback. The team could also release Dalton, allowing him to become a free agent and let him choose his next destination. In a scenario in which Dalton doesn’t directly pass the torch to Cincinnati’s next quarterback-of-the-future, the Bengals could install Finley in a role similar to what Tom Savage played before Deshaun Watson took his job in Houston. So it’s not like they’re stuck going in one direction.
With that being said, this bears watching from a Bears perspective (heh). Chicago has been pegged as a potential future landing spot for Dalton, but that can’t happen if he isn’t made available via trade or doesn’t hit free agency.