CINCINNATI — Talk is cheap when it comes to the NFL Draft, especially in the days leading up to the league’s offseason extravaganza in New York. Misinformation is a key component to any good analysis. Rather, how one deciphers the abundant misinformation is key.
The Bengals have the 24th overall pick in Thursday night’s first round, setting themselves up to choose from any number of positions. One of those positions on Thursday is not going to be quarterback. Yes, there have been reports that the Bengals might be interested in Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater should he fall that far.
Don’t believe the hype.
The Bengals like Andy Dalton. The front office and the coaching staff believe in him, believe he can be the quarterback to take them to greater places than the first round of the playoffs. The two sides are talking extension. They aren’t close on the numbers at this point but there’s a mutual interest in continuing the relationship.
This is the last year of Dalton’s contract with the Bengals. There is the possibility that the sides decide to play things out and resolve the situation next offseason. It could put the Bengals in the draft market for a first-round quarterback next year but not this year.
This isn’t to say that the team won’t draft a quarterback at some point this weekend — a signal caller in the third round or later wouldn’t be a bad move. A quarterback in the first or second rounds, however, just doesn’t make sense for a team that is built to win now.
In Marvin Lewis’ 10 previous seasons, the Bengals have always known who their quarterback was going to be. The job was Jon Kitna’s in 2003 because that’s what that team needed in Lewis’ first season. Carson Palmer wasn’t coming off the bench unless Kitna had gotten injured. From 2004 until Palmer resigned his commission with the team after the 2010 season, he was the guy. Only injuries in 2004 and 2008 changed that status.
Since Dalton was drafted in the second round in 2011, the job has been his. He’s had a veteran backup in Bruce Gradkowski and Josh Johnson in his three seasons but none were threats to take Dalton’s job. Jason Campbell is an upgrade as the backup. He gives the Bengals a viable long-term option should Dalton go down with injury but this is not an open competition for the starting position.
Take a quarterback with your first or second pick and then you have people looking over their shoulders waiting for the rookie to make his first appearance. Some might argue Dalton needs the competition to take that next step. Head coach Marvin Lewis wouldn’t be one of those people.
"We’re not going to take reps away from Andy Dalton to give somebody else another opportunity to do that," said Lewis during a pre-draft press conference on Tuesday at Paul Brown Stadium. "It’s only fair to the rest of the football team that if I’m going to put you in place as the quarterback or competing quarterback that I give you enough reps to be good enough for the football team to win with you. I think that’s important. I believed that.
"It’s worked pretty well for us, that I haven’t had that kind of confusion. This football team has known who their quarterback is going to be and the leader of it and it’s made us better for that because they can get behind and rally behind him and they can rally him."
The Bengals can look at a lot of positions when their turn to pick comes up Thursday night. Quarterback just won’t be one of them.