Bengals keeping Andy Dalton is more valuable than trading him

Cincinnati Bengals

Andy Dalton has seemed to be as good as gone, but the Cincinnati Bengals are better off keeping him at this point.

The worst-kept secret in the 2020 draft is the Cincinnati Bengals taking LSU quarterback Joe Burrow No. 1 overall. Long-time starter Andy Dalton has seemed to be as good as gone then, heading into the final year of his contract with no cap ramifications to trading or cutting him.

But trade rumors surrounding Dalton have not yet yielded a move, and it’s unlikely anything happens before the draft now. Bengals head coach Zac Taylor acknowledged earlier this month that all options are on the table regarding the veteran signal caller.

Dalton has himself cited a possible scenario where he stays in Cincinnati.

“I truly believe they want what’s best for me, but I understand it’s a business, and you know how that goes,” Dalton told NFL Network. “With the first pick, if they take a quarterback like everyone expects, that could trigger something. There’s even a scenario where I go back there.”

Dalton is due to make $17.5 million in base salary and count $17.7 million against the cap this year. Those are the second-highest financial numbers for Cincinnati this year right now, behind A.J. Green’s $17.9 million franchise tag salary and $18.17 million cap hit. Right now, before having to sign their draft picks, the Bengals have a little over $7.3 million in cap space.

This offseason will be pretty difficult for incoming rookies, with everything being done remotely until further notice. Rookie quarterbacks who are in line to play right away, like Burrow, will have it extra difficult.

The Bengals can just cut Dalton without consequence, and pave the way for another team to sign him at their price. Trading for him, even in the final year of his contract, is unpalatable for a lot of team since he’ll be an expensive backup virtually anywhere he could go.

Dalton is coming off a poor season in 2019, which included a “we’re not tanking” (wink-wink) three-game benching in favor of clearly overwhelmed rookie Ryan Finley. So his trade value is at a low, and the Bengals are unlikely to get more than a late-round pick for Dalton even if it were the best of circumstances.

Dalton has some hidden value to the Bengals. He spent last season in the new system brought in by Taylor and offensive coordinator Brian Callahan, and he had some success too (seven games with more than 260 passing yards; four 300-plus yard games). He can be an very important resource for Burrow right off the bat.

Dalton now seems sure to accept a role as a backup, or as a veteran mentor to a young quarterback if that’s what it comes to. It also wouldn’t surprising if a pay cut is ultimately asked of him in Cincinnati. The Bengals are better off keeping him at this point though, and they’ll get value out of him even if he never throws a pass in 2020.

Next: 5 teams who should trade for Jamal Adams

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