Campbell gives Bengals vet Dalton needs

March, 20, 2014
Mar 20
2:00
AM ET
CINCINNATI -- From the time he stepped behind center during the Cincinnati Bengals' first drive of their first preseason game his rookie season, Andy Dalton was granted complete control over the team's offense.

Young quarterbacks typically have a few games or a few seasons to play under veterans and get weaned into their new system. Not Dalton.

Yes, when he was drafted there also was an older signal-caller with a pretty good track record also on the roster, but that didn't matter. Cincinnati's plans were clear. With Carson Palmer's time leading the franchise nearing an inevitable end, Dalton was brought on board to immediately supplant him and become the future face of the franchise. The same year they drafted Dalton, the Bengals brought in a high-caliber rookie receiver in A.J. Green. The two were expected to form an unbeatable tandem for years to come.

[+] EnlargeJason Campbell
AP Photo/Mark DuncanJason Campbell gives the Bengals and Andy Dalton a much-needed veteran presence.
For at least one season, though, there is another player who the Bengals want to pair with Dalton. And the decision to bring the two together couldn't be any smarter.

According to ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter, the Bengals on Wednesday night reached an agreement with nine-year veteran quarterback Jason Campbell on a one-year deal. The move is designed to give Dalton something he has desperately needed since he was drafted in 2011; an older quarterback who can serve as a guide and a mentor.

Just earlier this week, Bengals free agent cornerback Chris Crocker said in an interview on Sirius XM NFL Radio that he believed Dalton needed an older quarterback around him.

"That's something that really I think Andy is missing, is that sort of mentor," Crocker said. "Coaches can tell you one thing and they can say what they've seen and situations they've been in, but it's different coming from an older guy."

Campbell arrives in Cincinnati after having spent nine seasons playing for four teams. He spent the bulk of his career in Washington, but stints in Oakland, Chicago and most recently Cleveland, also are part of his time in the NFL. He played nine games for the Browns last season, including getting one start against the Bengals late in the year. After leading Cleveland to a 13-0 first-quarter lead, Campbell went on to throw three times. The Bengals defense and special teams played a key role in the eventual 41-20 Cincinnati win.

It's Campbell's time on the West Coast that specifically brings him to the Queen City.

In 2010 and 2011, Campbell quarterbacked a Raiders offense that was run by Hue Jackson, the Bengals assistant who was elevated to offensive coordinator in January. The pair formed a close bond. After an injury sent Campbell to the injured reserve a quarter of the way through the 2011 season, the Raiders made a trade with the Bengals that brought Palmer to the Bay Area. Palmer had been placed on the reserve list just before the season began, and stayed there. He wasn't declared active in games, allowing Dalton to make every start for the Bengals prior to the trade.

Even if Palmer had wanted to be a true mentor to Dalton, he didn't have much time to do so. By Week 7 of the 2011 season, he was gone. Dalton was officially on his own.

He's practically been on his own ever since.

Aside from Palmer and now Campbell, Dalton has only played alongside one other true veteran. In 2011 and 2012, Brad Gradkowski was a backup for the Bengals. But even his veteran status came with an asterisk. He started 11 games for Tampa Bay as a rookie in 2006, but never started more than four games in a season after that. He could tell Dalton a few things about playing quarterback, but he didn't know what it was like to have to deal with the expectations of being a franchise quarterback of the future.

Campbell does know what that's like. He's been there. He also knows what it's like to not win a playoff game. Twice in the five years he played for Washington he went to the postseason, but lost both opening-round games. Dalton, likewise, hasn't won a playoff game despite making three playoff trips.

This free-agency addition won't force Dalton into the preseason position battle some frustrated Bengals fans are seeking. But it will force him into doing something he hasn't had a chance to do so far during his career: listen to someone who has already been in his shoes.

Coley Harvey

ESPN Cincinnati Bengals reporter

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