The San Francisco 49ers signing of Colin Kaepernick to a 6-year extension marked the first sizable deal for a member of the 2011 draft class. It is noteworthy because that class was the first to experience the artificial ceiling on salaries with the rookie wage scale. They are all now eligible for new deals, and we'll start to see bigger contracts coming down the pike.
One player that is a tough one to figure out is Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton. His teams have done well, but sometimes that comes in spite of Dalton, and not because of him. He is not a bad quarterback, but there are still a lot of question marks about how high his ceiling actually is.
And yet, it appears the Cincinnati Bengals seem to have a value on him. Team President Mike Brown said he believes Dalton deserves a contract similar to that of Kaepernick.
Mike Brown believes Dalton's next deal should be around Kaepernick's. More on that later. Niners deal caught some attn around here— Coley Harvey (@ColeyHarvey) July 22, 2014
Naturally, the first reaction was a bit of WTF?!?!, and general amusement. While Dalton has done some good things, he has not advanced in the playoffs like Kap, even though "quarterback wins" remains a tough point to argue in my mind. More important, he does not seem to have the upside that we see in Kap. Both have a lot of work still to do to improve, but I think most would agree that Kap's ceiling is higher than that of Dalton.
And yet, hanging on the idea of a "6-yr, $126 million contract" is not really helpful in this discussion. If we were talking about fully guaranteed contracts, then yes, you could call the notion ridiculous. However, in light of the structure of Kap's deal (a structure the 49ers use frequently), it is not entirely bat-guano crazy.
We've discussed Kap's deal over and over again. There are two particularly notable aspects as we compare to what Andy Dalton might get. The first is the $12,328,766 signing bonus. I'm fairly certain any team would love to lock in a potential franchise quarterback with that kind of bonus. And even if you don't think Dalton can be that kind of franchise QB, it's still not a crippling amount for a guy who isn't an awful quarterback.
The second notable aspect is the rolling guarantees. As we move along through the deal, the seasons do not become fully guaranteed until April 1 of the given league year. This provides the team with an out if for some reason they think the player is trending the wrong way. It seems more likely that Kap and the 49ers re-do the deal along the way, rather than have concerns the team will actually cut him at some point. With Dalton however, those rolling guarantees could be much more valuable. If he does not take the necessary step forward, the Bengals would have a chance to get out from the deal each year.
Much like with the 49ers with the Kaepernick, the one problem would be if Dalton doesn't improve, but doesn't necessarily regress. Given where each is at, I'd say Kap would be safer to stick around, but it still creates a bit of a problem for the Bengals. They haven't exactly been a paragon of front office decision-making, so it remains to be seen how this would play out.
While the overall dollar figures make it hard to believe Andy Dalton deserves this kind of contract, the general structure of it is not exactly crazy stupid for a Dalton deal.