- Coley Harvey, ESPN Staff Writer
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Whenever a quarterback talks, we in the media listen. Whenever a quarterback with a track record of being boring in news conference settings happens to do a 180-degree turn and showcases a more charismatic, carefree and talkative version of himself, then we really listen.
The latter was the case Monday when Dalton addressed for the first time this offseason his contract talks with the team. His rookie deal expires next March, but the Bengals have expressed interest in extending the contract this offseason.
Still, with Dalton near the end of his first deal and inching closer toward the possibility of playing a year in contract limbo, the "what if?" question pops up. What if the Bengals aren't able to sign him to the extension he seeks? What if they aren't able to franchise tag him next season? Then what?
Then they turn to this year's draft and try to hone a player from it who could eventually take over for him.
Dalton doesn't believe that's happening. He doesn't think he's getting replaced by anyone, regardless of whether a quarterback gets added to the Bengals' mix following next month's draft.
"There's been a lot of talk that they're going to draft another quarterback, but they're not bringing in another quarterback to replace me," Dalton said. "From everything they've told me they're not bringing in anybody to compete. So I'm not worried about it."
Cincinnati does need a backup just in case plans to extend Dalton fall through. The Bengals also need a backup in the event Dalton gets retained for the long haul because Jason Campbell has only been signed to a one-year deal, and could be out of Paul Brown Stadium this time next year. With Josh Johnson and Zac Robinson also nearing the end of their contracts, the Bengals would be wise to invest in a quarterback this offseason who could become a true backup to Dalton in the event any of the other three are cut this fall or not brought back next spring.
For now, there are any number of quarterbacks who the Bengals could draft. The more popular possibilities include Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater and Georgia's Aaron Murray. Bridgewater has the higher grade of the two, although he has slipped out of top-10 selection material on some mock drafts to being completely out of the first two rounds. If by some stroke of luck Bridgewater is still on the board in the third round when the Bengals pick, it might not be too far fetched to believe they would go after him. A mobile runner with a big arm, he could fit new offensive coordinator Hue Jackson's system quite well.
Murray has garnered a lot of attention this spring primarily because he is the former quarterback at the University of Georgia. In addition to the Bengals' apparent penchant for drafting former Georgia products -- six former Bulldogs are currently on the roster -- he has experience having played with some of them. He spent one season at Georgia throwing to Green. Bengals offensive guard Clint Boling was on the offensive line that year, too. Bengals safety Shawn Williams also played with Murray, as did H-back Orson Charles, who played both college football and high school ball with him. Charles and Murray played at Plant High School in Tampa, Fla. at the same time.
Whichever quarterback ends up in stripes, Dalton still isn't worried about his spot getting taken.
"I read something where we never drafted a quarterback to be the backup," Dalton said. "I heard it's been a long time since we've done that. But that's kind of what they're planning on doing."
The last time Cincinnati drafted a quarterback who didn't start right away was 2007, when Jeff Rowe was drafted in the fifth round. He played just one game. The year before that, Reggie McNeal was taken in the sixth round. Two years before that, Casey Bramlet was drafted in the seventh. The only other quarterback, aside from Dalton, the Bengals drafted was first overall pick Carson Palmer. He started from 2003 until Dalton took over in 2011. Later that season, Palmer was traded to Oakland before eventually moving on to Arizona. The Bengals face the Cardinals on the road this preseason.