Bengals Release Long-Time Starter Andy Dalton

Jesse Pantuosco
April 30, 2020 - 9:39 am

Cincinnati’s Andy Dalton Era ended as soon as the Bengals made Heisman winner Joe Burrow the No. 1 pick in last week’s NFL Draft. But now it’s official.

This was the expected outcome for Dalton, who led the Bengals to five straight playoff berths including two division titles after arriving as the 35th overall pick in 2011. Cincinnati was never long for the postseason, losing its opener in each of Dalton’s five playoff go-rounds. The TCU alum will finish his Bengals tenure with 204 touchdown passes—a franchise record—and 31,594 passing yards, trailing only Ken Anderson for the most in club history.

Dalton no doubt saw the writing on the wall when rookie coach Zac Taylor benched him for Ryan Finley following the Bengals’ 0-8 start last season. The former second-round pick eventually regained his starting status, leading Cincinnati to its only two wins of 2019 including a 33-23 triumph over Cleveland in the Bengals’ season finale. That victory, highlighted by a pair of Dalton touchdowns (one passing, one rushing), would prove to be his Cincy sendoff.

Dalton has never been among the league’s upper-echelon starters, but he probably deserved better than last year’s unceremonious benching, a slight that obviously stung the three-time Pro Bowler. Though it was bound to happen anyway, NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reports Dalton asked for his release, preferring to leave on his own terms.

The Bengals could have entertained trade offers for the nine-year vet (the Patriots have been linked to him ever since Tom Brady’s departure last month) but ultimately opted for a clean break, giving Dalton the freedom to sign with a team of his choosing. Dalton shouldn’t expect a robust free-agent market after posting a career-low 78.3 passer rating in 2019 (his 59.5 completion percentage was also a career-worst), but he could fill the role of a bridge starter/mentor while also serving as roster depth for any team pursuing a veteran backup.

While it’s reasonable to think Dalton has entered the decline phase of his career, it’s worth noting that last season’s poor showing came without the help of perennial All-Pro A.J. Green, who spent the year shelved by a lingering ankle injury. Perhaps a change of scenery in New England or elsewhere is just what the 32-year-old needs.

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