"It's a big piece of our puzzle that's holding out there nebulous right now," the Bengals coach said. "So we'd like to get it done to where it makes sense for us and makes sense for him and we can preserve a small portion of the team going forward with him."
Dalton, a second-round draft pick in 2011, has one year left on his rookie deal. But the Bengals want to make sure he doesn't go anywhere when that contract ends.
Dalton has led Cincinnati to the playoffs in each of his three seasons with the team. He has started every game since his rookie season and has thrown 80 touchdown passes and 49 interceptions.
He also has been criticized for his lack of playoff success. But Lewis is not among those critics. Nor is team owner Mike Brown, who earlier this week echoed Lewis' desire to sign Dalton to a long-term deal.
"Andy's being compared with a lot of players who didn't play for [their] first three years," Lewis said. "What he's accomplished has been great. We want to continue to grow with him. He has all the work ethic and dynamics of everything. That's the reason we drafted him to begin with. That hasn't changed.
"All he's done is make good on everything we thought he would. One player doesn't lose a playoff game; the football team does."