By Cody Strahm @CodyJStrahm on July 18, 2014
As the the reigning AFC North champion Cincinnati Bengals get ready to open training camp, whether or not to extend quarterback Andy Dalton, who is entering the final year of his rookie deal, is a question that has been hovering over the organization. While there are reasons why the Bengals should consider locking Dalton up with a long-term contract, here are five reasons why they shouldn't.
Box-score analysis would suggest that Dalton should be granted a new contract before he plays a down in 2014. His numbers, excluding the interceptions, compare favorably to many of the league's other young signal callers. But a formidable supporting cast has been masking many of his flaws and inflating his production. Given the playmakers at his disposal and a quality defense on the other side of the ball, Dalton has arguably underachieved.
Dalton may have impressive moments throughout the year and entire games when he looks the part, but he seemingly struggles just as often. Bengals fans never really know which Dalton they're going to get on a week-to-week basis. In 2013, Dalton boasted a 100-plus quarterback rating on six occasions, but posted a rating under 70 five times. Likewise, he tossed three or more touchdown passes in six games, but multiple interceptions in five.
Why not give Dalton a little extra motivation in 2014? Players often thrive during a contract year while others regress once they've been paid and become content. Giving Dalton that opportunity could elevate his price tag in 2015, but it would be worth it if Cincinnati becomes a more viable Super Bowl contender.
Dalton's most troubling statistic is the 36 interceptions he's thrown since 2013. Protecting the football is priority No. 1 for quarterbacks, and Dalton simply hasn't done a good enough job of doing so. The Bengals are arguably one of the league's most complete teams, with a solid defense and an ascending rushing attack. They don't need an elite passing game to excel. What they do need is more reliable quarterback play.
Most of all, Dalton has gotten smaller the bigger the moment. In his three playoff starts -- all Bengals' losses -- Dalton has tallied a combined six interceptions to only one touchdown pass. Frankly, there's no bigger reason why the Bengals have suffered three consecutive first-round playoff exits. To reverse the trend, Dalton needs to show up in the big games or Cincinnati needs to find a new quarterback.
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