Dalton should be wary of Kaepernick's deal

June, 4, 2014
Jun 4
6:35
PM ET
CINCINNATI -- Now that San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has signed a six-year, $110 million-plus contract extension with more than $61 million of that guaranteed, Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton has a stronger case for his own large extension.

But as strong a case as he can build right now, Dalton still should be wary of expecting such overtures to come his way. Cincinnati doesn't have any compelling reasons to award him as handsomely as the 49ers did Kaepernick.

Dalton and his agent, Jeff Nalley, have been working with the Bengals on an extension that could similarly put the fourth-year quarterback in the same company of his position's highest earners. From Dalton's standpoint the goal has long been to find a happy medium with Bengals representatives on a yearly salary that would come close to $18 million. That is, after all, about what Tony Romo and Jay Cutler are currently earning. Like Dalton, both quarterbacks' inconsistent play have kept them from being considered among the NFL's elite.

The elite, for the most part, make $19 million a year and more.

For what it's worth, Kaepernick is now scheduled to make around $18.3 million a year.

There are legitimate questions as to whether Dalton is not only worth that, but if he's even worth $15, $16 or $17 million annually.

While he has won 30 games through his first three seasons and accomplished feats only replicated in league history by Peyton Manning and soon-to-be-seeking-a-new-contract Cam Newton, he still hasn't won a playoff game. He's had three tries and has nothing to show for himself.

Kaepernick, on the other hand, started quarterbacking a team in the middle of his second season and took it all the way to the Super Bowl. A year later, he had the 49ers within a tipped pass in the end zone of possibly heading back.

Clearly, the 36th pick of the 2011 draft earned every penny he'll soon be seeing.

The 35th pick of the 2011 draft, Dalton, wouldn't be able to say the same if a deal of that magnitude came his way. He still has some convincing to do. He still has a city to win over. Yes, there are Dalton loyalists throughout Who Dey Nation, but for every "Red Rifle" supporter you encounter, there are seemingly two or three Dalton detractors upset that he's still employed as the team's starting quarterback.

When the Bengals drafted AJ McCarron in the fifth round last month, they sent a message. They let Dalton and the rest of the league know they're serious about trying to build for the future if these contract talks stall and his play this season stagnates or tanks. Cincinnati very easily could have been content with the backups it had and not made the move to get McCarron, a developmental project who can eventually become a starter. The fact they drafted him, though, was a sign that they're getting ready for a contingency plan if it indeed comes to that.

No one at Paul Brown Stadium appears to want that. Team president and owner Mike Brown and head coach Marvin Lewis are chief among them. Both have spent the offseason affirming their belief in Dalton as their starter. Lewis has been a little more convincing in his support, while Brown still has to think about the bottom line: his money. The way the Bengals' salary cap is set up this season, particularly with linebacker Vontaze Burfict also in line for a big raise, makes it hard for him to justify paying Dalton the way Kaepernick and some of the others have been.

Where Kaepernick's deal could have a legitimate impact is the $61 million in guaranteed money. Last summer, Atlanta's Matt Ryan set a record bringing in $59 million guaranteed. Dalton won't see quite near that much money, but it does give him an opening to push for a little more than perhaps the Bengals might have previously been willing to offer.

It's worth pointing out that it's in the guaranteed money where Cutler's and Romo's deals look most attractive. Across the life of their current contracts Cutler and Romo respectively are scheduled to receive $54 and $55 million guaranteed. Those are among the top-5 guaranteed dollar figures in the league.

That's one reason why Dalton would be smart to pay attention to Kaepernick's deal. But on the overall, he'd be much smarter to stay leery of it, and not read too far into what it means for himself.

If he does read deeper into it than he should, he might not like the answer he gets.

Coley Harvey

ESPN Cincinnati Bengals reporter

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