June 4, 2014 is a day that, even nearly two months later, Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton likely still has circled on his calendar.
On that particular Wednesday, the doldrums of the offseason came to a screeching halt with an announcement out of San Francisco: 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick signed a six-year, $126 million extension — a deal that included a record $61 million guaranteed.
Kaepernick, with an annual salary of $21 million, had become the NFL’s highest-paid signal-caller. Or that’s how it appeared, at least. In the days following, details of the contract began to leak.
As it turns out, Kaepernick’s pact is complicated and rife with clauses and incentives; it’s really a team-friendly two-year deal that pays just $13 million guaranteed. Profootballtalk.com did a fantastic job getting the scoop and breaking it down.
So what does this have to do with Dalton, you ask? Let him explain.
“You have to have confidence in yourself that you’re going to be able to do things and that’s what he did,” Dalton said of Kaepernick, via ESPN.com. “He’s confident enough where he’s going to be able to play out the whole contract and he’s going to be able to earn everything.
“So for me, I feel the same way. I feel confident with what I’m able to do.”
Translation: Dalton wants what Kaepernick got. And, entering the final year of his rookie contract, Dalton wants it sooner rather than later.
But he’s a few fries short of a Happy Meal if he believes he’s deserving of such a payday. The “Red Rifle” doesn’t possess the same talent as Kaep, nor does his NFL resume compare to that of the Niners’ bicep-kissing QB.
To put it bluntly, the most Dalton and Kaepernick have in common is they were drafted within a pick of each other in 2011. That’s it.
Despite being surrounded by weapons, including All-World receiver A.J. Green, Dalton is coming off a mistake-filled 2013 campaign in which he tossed a career-high 20 interceptions and committed three crucial turnovers in Cincy’s first-round playoff loss. Speaking of the playoffs, Dalton has yet to escape past the Wild Card round, going 0-3 since 2011.
Now let’s talk about Kaepernick, who threw only eight interceptions last season en route to San Fran’s second consecutive NFC Championship game appearance. The year before, as most know, he guided the team to the Super Bowl, coming within a few yards of capturing the Lombardi Trophy.
Yet Dalton is “hopeful” the Bengals will back up the Brinks truck for him, too.
“The biggest thing is that it got done,” Dalton said of Kaepernick’s deal. “That’s one thing that you see, that they took the time and were able to find a middle ground and get it done. So I’m hopeful that will happen for me soon.”
Dalton also has Green in his corner, banging the table for his monetary gain.
“I know they know he’s the guy…I feel like they’re going to get something done before the season starts,” Green told the Bengals’ official website.
Green’s obviously a good teammate and friend, but he should worry about himself. Green is under the Bengals’ control through 2015, but the team is said to be interested in locking up the elite wideout for the long haul. To do that would cost a pretty penny, meaning Cincy can’t go dumping all of its financial resources into Dalton.
Truth be told, it’s improbable for both Dalton and Green to expect big paydays anytime soon. With frugal owner Mike Brown (and his family) calling the shots, the club likely will enter wait-and-see mode, utilizing the franchise tag where possible.
Earlier this week, Brown hinted that the tagis indeed an option.
“You can count on one thing, he’s going to be the quarterback here for the immediate future,” Brown said, via Bengals.com. “We’ve had numerous discussions and I think like most of these matters, it will find an ending soon enough,” Brown said. “But I’m not going to stand here and predict when that will be.”
Not exactly a ringing endorsement from an owner who, with fiscal responsibility in mind, keeps retaining coach Marvin Lewis despite the team never winning a postseason contest in his eleven-year tenure.
Hedging my bets, I’ll allow that Brown may go against the grain and pay Dalton what he’s seeking. It would be completely unlike Brown, but the potential outcome does exist. For the sake of good journalism, I won’t conveniently ignore the possibility.
But that still doesn’t mean Dalton is worth $126 million (read: one hundred twenty-six million dollars), with nearly half of that guaranteed. Incentives or not, his play simply hasn’t justified such a reward.