Andy Dalton Still May Have Something to Give an NFL Team

The Andy Dalton era for the Cincinnati Bengals is done after the team released their longtime quarterback.

The move had plenty of financial motivation, as Dalton was slated to earn $17.7 million this season for the cap-strapped Bengals. Plus, who needs Andy Dalton when you have Joe Burrow, right?

Well, a few quarterback-needy teams could use him.

The bigger question is what Dalton has left to offer.

Dalton's Efficiency

Via our Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) metric, Dalton has been subpar in his career more often than not. (NEP is a metric we use at numberFire to indicate on-field impact. Based on down and distance and field position, every play has an expected scoring output. Good plays add to that total, and bad plays subtract from it. Gaining yardage and field position above expectation increases a team's scoring odds.)

In his nine seasons with at least 100 drop backs, Dalton underperformed the league average in Passing NEP per drop back five times. However, he has been above average in three of the past five seasons by this measure. His Passing Success Rate (the percentage of drop backs that increase expected scoring) has mostly followed suit.

Andy Dalton's MetricsPassing NEP/
Drop Back
Success Rate

Dang, that 2015 season, tho. Remember that?

Anyway, no matter how you dress it up, two of the past three seasons have been terrible for Dalton, and he's been a bottom-tier passer in 2017 and 2019 while being around league average in 2018.

Is it his fault?

Maybe. Maybe not.

Over the past five years, 72.6% of Dalton's passes have been deemed catchable, and over the past three seasons, 66.6% of his passes have been deemed on-target, via SportsInfoSolutions.

For context, among 42 qualified passers this season, his multi-year rates would have ranked him 31st in catchable rate and 30th in on-target rate. That's not great. His 2015 catchable target rate was 74.5%, which ranked 18th. Still not great, but what happened there?

The most obvious variable is his offensive line.

Since 2015, his Bengals have ranked 8th, 15th, 24th, 24th, and 26th in pass-blocking grade, via ProFootballFocus. He was the league's most efficient passer in 2015 with a top-10 offensive line and a league-average passer with an average line in 2016. Then, when things got rough, Dalton fell off.

After a nine-year career, it's probably safe to say that Dalton hasn't been a superstar in disguise this whole time, but we have seen him be capable when given some talent around him.

Does any quarterback-needy team fit that build?

Dalton's Possible Landing Spot

At FanDuel Sportsbook, Dalton's Week 1 teams are listed as follows:

Andy Dalton's Week 1 Team FanDuel Sportsbook Odds
New England -135
Jacksonville +150
Pittsburgh +650
Las Vegas +3000
Washington +3000

The Las Vegas Raiders seem like a clear long shot for a reason, though Washington is intriguing. The more realistic teams could all be in play (duh), and in that case, Dalton could push for a starting gig in Week 1 for the New England Patriots and the Jacksonville Jaguars. He'd be more of a long-term play for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Patriots' decision not to draft a quarterback leaves them with Jarrett Stidham as their expected Week 1 starter. Stidham's NFL sample is effectively non-existent, yet the team ranked sixth in pass block grade last year. Hmm.

Jacksonville has Gardner Minshew, who ranked 25th in Passing NEP per drop back and 35th in Passing Success Rate in 2019 behind the NFL's 26th-ranked pass-blocking offensive line. While Dalton may not be a marked improvement over Minshew in Year 2, Jacksonville could be looking for a quarterback competition after parting ways with Nick Foles.

The Steelers have to deal with Ben Roethlisberger's injuries and a lack of depth behind him. They did boast the second-best pass-blocking offensive line in the league last year, via PFF, and were a top-tier team last year despite ranking 29th in adjusted passing offense, based on numberFire's metrics.

The Bottom Line

The Patriots are a very intriguing fit for Dalton even though New England's actions have suggested they're fine with what they have on the roster right now.

Dalton, again, is a player who has still shown some relevance in the proper environment, and that sure sounds like something the Patriots can thrive with under center. Let's not act like league-average efficiency grows on trees. Just ask Pittsburgh last year.

Wherever Dalton lands, one thing is clear: he can still be a boost to a team that can surround him with the right pieces.