On Oct. 29, Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton turned 32 years old. As a birthday present, the team decided to send him to the bench in favor of rookie backup Ryan Finley. The man called "the Red Rifle" will now be taken out of the lineup for a reason other than health concerns for the first time since coming to town in 2011.
The news, which was revealed by NFL Network's Tom Pelissero, came with hours to go until the 4:00 p.m. ET trade deadline. This immediately brought about rumors that the TCU product could be heading to a different team for the first time in his career. Although no further information was provided about the reasoning for his benching.
The 0-8 Bengals are currently in the midst of their bye week after returning from a 24-10 loss to the Los Angeles Rams in London. When the team returns to action with a new starter in Finley, they will face off with the in-division rival Baltimore Ravens.
Originally a second-round pick out of TCU in the 2011 NFL Draft, Dalton was the second offensive weapon added to the Bengals roster in hopes of competing for the AFC North title. He joined first-round wide receiver A.J. Green and immediately became the leader of Marvin Lewis' team.
As a 16-game starter for the Bengals, Dalton threw for 3,398 yards, 20 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions while helping his team reach the playoffs. He left the first game of the season early due to injury but was able to return in week two and remained in the starting lineup.
Over the first five seasons of his career, Dalton led the Bengals to the postseason five consecutive times while also being named to the Pro Bowl each year. However, the team was unable to win any of the playoff games.
Midway through the 2015 season, Dalton was viewed as one of the best quarterbacks of the season as he led the Bengals to an 8-0 record and first place in the AFC North. However, he suffered a fractured right thumb in week 14 and missed the final three games of the season, as well as a playoff loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Dalton still finished the campaign with 25 touchdowns, seven interceptions, and 3,250 passing yards.
In the seasons since this playoff appearance, the Bengals have failed to make the playoffs while Dalton has dealt with constant changes in the surrounding talent. Dalton has been effective overall but hasn't been able to offset the losses of playmakers due to injuries. For example, top receiver A.J. Green missed six games in 2016, another seven in 2018, and hasn't played this season.
Despite these struggles, Dalton (30,352) is only 2,487 yards shy of breaking the team record for passing yards. Ken Anderson (32,838) is the current leader. Both quarterbacks are tied for the team record in passing touchdowns with 197.0comments
With only two seasons remaining on his six-year, $96 million contract, his salary should not serve as a major obstacle to a deal. He is making $16 million in 2019 and will see only a slight increase during the 2020 season. Additionally, only $200,000 will count against the salary cap.
(Photo Credit: Andy Lyons/Getty)