When Andy Dalton signed an inexpensive deal to join the Cowboys as Dak Prescott’s backup, there was a bit of grumbling from Bears fans who bemoaned the fact that it wasn’t Chicago’s football team that added a quarterback at a bargain-basement price.
As it turns out, the Bears were – at one point – interested in bringing Dalton aboard. But at a price tag that would’ve had fans grumbling for a different set of reasons.
Paul Dehner Jr. (The Athletic) writes the Bengals and Bears discussed a deal for Dalton in March. That makes sense, especially since the Bears reportedly checked in with the Bengals regarding a trade back in late February. In fact, Dehner writes that the Bears and Bengals were “very close” to making a deal happen. But instead of consummating a trade with the Bengals, the Bears pivoted and sent a fourth-round compensatory draft pick to the Jaguars in exchange for Nick Foles (and the ability to re-work Foles’ deal into a more team-friendly state).
So, what happened? Dehner describes “the clear breaking point” of a Bears-Bengals deal being Cincinnati getting a form of compensation (a draft pick) and salary cap relief in exchange for creating a soft landing for Dalton in his post-Cincinnati playing career. Based on what we know with what happened in the Foles deal, the Bears were willing to send a draft pick to the Bengals. HOWEVER, sending a pick and giving Cincinnati cap relief was probably a no-go. Seeing that the Bengals had ample cap room and the Bears were pressing up against it, taking on Dalton for a one-year deal worth $17 million in guarantees never made sense for Chicago. That is reason enough as to why the trade didn’t get done.
And all is well that ends well. The Bears brought on a bridge quarterback without having to pay a financial premium on top of a draft pick, while Dalton gets to go home to Texas. Dalton did say that signing with Dallas was the best fit for him during the time of a pandemic, per Clarence E. Hill Jr. of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram (the quarterback has an offseason home in Dallas, and not having to move his family during these times sure has its perks).
Could the Bears have called the Bengals bluff, waited it out, and added Dalton as a short-term quarterback option later in the offseason. Maybe … but it certainly wasn’t as much as a given as we might otherwise think.