With the offseason now here, let's spend the next two weeks taking a position-by-position review of the Cincinnati Bengals' 2013 season and give a sneak peek at what may lie ahead in 2014.
2014 free agents: None.
The good: Thanks to having a healthy starter, the Bengals only gave Andy Dalton meaningful snaps in 2013. Josh Johnson did appear in two blowouts, rushing seven times for 20 yards. Zac Robinson was placed on the physically unable to perform list due to a preseason injury and remained there through the entire regular season. As has been the case for Dalton throughout his career, there was some good and some bad. This season may have been more of a mixed bag than the other two. Among the good were the franchise single-season records he set in touchdowns (33) and passing yards (4,293). He also scorched through the month of October, going 4-1 and passing for more than 300 yards in four games that stretch. It was enough to earn him AFC Player of the Month honors.
The bad: Interceptions were a problem for Dalton, who regularly forced passes into tight windows or overthrew and underthrew receivers who seemed to ad lib in zone coverage in ways he wasn't prepared for. In all, Dalton threw 20 interceptions during the regular season and had two more and a key fumble in the Bengals' first-round playoff loss to San Diego. Those three second-half turnovers had Cincinnati playing from behind in the final two quarters. Decision-making was an issue at times for Dalton, too, as evidenced as his occasional confusion with Pro Bowl receiver A.J. Green and crossed signals with then-offensive coordinator Jay Gruden.
The money (2014 salary-cap numbers): Dalton ($1.7 million), Johnson ($955,000), Robinson ($570,000). The Bengals will be keeping Dalton as starter for a fourth straight season. All three quarterbacks are scheduled to be free agents in 2015. Since the cap hit is so large on Johnson, Cincinnati will keep him this year before possibly rejecting the opportunity to re-sign him after his contract expires next offseason. The Bengals could still bring in inexpensive veteran competition as backup, but financially speaking, they probably would be better served to make an addition -- if they want to -- via the draft. Neither option really seems smart, though. They would be best served standing pat this offseason, using the extra roster spot for another position of need and accessing Dalton at the end of next year.
If Dalton puts up numbers in 2014 like he did in 2013, don't be surprised if, even after another possible first-round playoff exit, owner Mike Brown negotiates a shorter-termed contract to keep the team's 2011 second-round draft pick on board for another couple of seasons. After all, Dalton will be going through next season with a brand new offensive coordinator. Some leeway might be afforded because of the transition.
Draft priority: Low. Dalton was the last quarterback the Bengals drafted. It is possible they could use a late-round selection to send a message to Dalton that might step up the competition.