Andy Dalton isn’t ripping the Bengals. It’s not his style. But the three-time Pro Bowl quarterback is clearly not thrilled with how his exit – or his final year in Cincinnati – played out.
Though it was obvious Dalton wasn’t going to be kept around after he was benched midway through the season and the team zeroed in on LSU star Joe Burrow with the first pick in the NFL Draft, he wasn’t officially let go until Thursday. And it may have hurt his chances to latch onto a new team that would’ve given him an opportunity to start.
“This year there were a good amount of quarterbacks that were available,” Dalton told the Bengals’ official website. “I think it would have worked out differently if I had been a free agent when the new league year started. I was still under contract and that hurt me.”
Dalton, 32, had been with the Bengals since 2011, when they took him with the 35th pick in the draft out of TCU. He led them to five straight playoff appearances from 2011-15, but his run came to an end last year as Cincinnati bottomed out and he threw 14 interceptions, compared to just 16 touchdowns, in 13 games. Dalton was benched just before the trade deadline and later led the Bengals to their only two wins of the year. He believed teams were in inclined to trade for him this offseason because they knew Cincinnati would eventually release him.
“I’m sure teams knew they [the Bengals] were going to take a quarterback No. 1 and they would release me and there was no reason to rush into anything,” Dalton said.
The situation was frustrating, since had he known earlier that the Bengals wanted to move on from him, he could’ve caught on somewhere else.
“I wish if [coach Zac Taylor] was thinking about it at least let me try to see if I could end up somewhere else or at least see if there’s interest in possibly getting traded,” Dalton told ESPN in October. “At that point, the way it was handled, there wasn’t enough time to even have that happen.”
The NFL Network reported Thursday that the Jaguars have “legitimate interest” in Dalton. The Patriots also appear to be a potential landing spot. Dalton was due to earn $17.7 million in 2020, the final season of a six-year contract extension he signed in August 2014.