Maybe it has something to do with the fact that there are no journalists making $96 million, but when the Bengals lost their home opener 20-0 to the Baltimore Ravens, quarterback Andy Dalton got skewered. Yes, Dalton is a startling example of how an athlete who is hardly a household name can sign a deal in the $100 million range these days. But it’s one game. Headlines like this, at Bleacher Report, followed: Andy Dalton, Bengals Continue Regression with Embarrassing Week 1 Dud. Dalton’s 16-of-31 doesn’t look horrendous until you note that four of those passes were picks, and he also fumbled. (That said, since the Ravens constantly got the ball, somebody could have mentioned that the Bengals defense did a pretty good job.)
Maybe it’s not Dalton as much as the Bengals failing to adequately protect their investment. The offensive line got Swiss cheesier with Kevin Zeitler and Andrew Whitworth leaving the fold in the offseason. ESPN’s headline recounted Dalton’s “historically bad week” — and rightly so. But the 29-year-old Dalton has nearly as much history in front of him as behind him, so he’ll have time to make a different kind in the future. Besides, CincyJungle explains that the contract wasn’t as punitive to the team’s future as the passes have been, writing last year that “[Dalton’s] contract was very front loaded, so in 2016 and going forward he will be taking up much less cap space and could realistically be cut with only a manageable amount of dead money going to paying off the $96 million that he was guaranteed.” So Dalton’s future, if game one-type performances continue, needn’t be tied to the Bengals future.