The Cincinnati Bengals are pretty much in a make-or-break situation. Head coach Marvin Lewis enters the season as a lame-duck with no guarnatee beyond January. Meanwhile, starting quarterback Andy Dalton’s contract calls for an out with just a $2.4 million cap hit following the 2017 campaign.
One of the most-talented teams in the AFC, Cincinnati needs to not only return to the playoffs, but go deep into the postseason in order for its current core to be kept together.
Interestingly, how the Bengals perform this season could have an impact on A.J. McCarron’s future with the team. Dalton’s primary backup is set to become a restricted free agent next March and will surely be looking for a starting gig.
Despite his status, the Bengals have reportedly turned down multiple trade offers for the former Alabama standout. It’s interesting in that the team might very well view him as Dalton’s heir-apparent should the latter struggle in 2017.
Now, according to Albert Breer of MMQB, the Bengals actually turned down a second-round pick in exchange for Dalton during the offseason.
“Speaking of the Bengals, I’d be surprised if they move AJ McCarron for anything short of a blow-em-away deal,” Breer reported. “Cincinnati could have had a second-round pick for him this offseason, and chose to keep him.”
That’s a whole lot of value to turn down for a guy that has started a grand total of three games in as many seasons. It also comes after one report, since refuted by John Elway, indicated that the Denver Broncos were interested in acquiring McCarron (more on that here).
While McCarron has long been the subject of trade rumors, Cincinnati deciding to hang on to him tells us something about the organization’s internal thought process.
Despite leading his team to five playoff appearances in six seasons, Dalton has yet to win a postseason game. In fact, he’s thrown one touchdown compared to six interceptions in four playoff games.
If the Bengals don’t think Dalton is the man to lead them to Super Bowl contention, it’s quite possible they will move on from him following this season. After all, he is owed $51-plus million from 2018-20, $2.4 million of which is guaranteed.
This will definitely be a story to follow throughout the 2017 campaign. The pressure is surely on Dalton to up his game. If that doesn’t happen, McCarron could be the man under center in 2018. That’s been made clear by Cincinnati turning down a high-value pick for the backup’s services.