The quarterback, who is going into his fourth season, spoke about his contract situation for first time Monday morning as the Bengals returned to Paul Brown Stadium for the start of their voluntary offseason workout program. During a nearly 20-minute conversation with reporters, the normally subdued Dalton was a little more animated than usual as he made his points about his worth to the team.
Asked whether he felt he was the face of a franchise that also features star receiver A.J. Green, Dalton didn't flinch as he said "I do."
"Everything that [coach] Marvin [Lewis] has said, [offensive coordinator] Hue [Jackson] has said, and what everybody here has told me is that, and they've told everybody that," Dalton said. "So I'm confident with that. I hope to spend a lot of my career here."
For now, Dalton has just one year left on his first contract. Lewis said at last month's owners' meetings that he hoped a deal to extend Dalton's contract would come sooner rather than later so the quarterback can focus fully on football by training camp. Team president and owner Mike Brown didn't sound quite as optimistic as Lewis that the deal would come quickly, but he re-emphasized at the meetings his hope that Dalton would be locked to a long-term deal before next offseason.
Dalton is slated to make nearly $1.7 million in 2014 as he closes out a four-year, $5.2 million deal that was signed after he was drafted in the second round of the 2011 draft. Some salary-cap analysts believe he could command upward of $15 million per season on his next deal. That would bring him in line closer to other quarterbacks who are past their rookie deals. San Diego's Philip Rivers currently makes just more than $15 million annually. Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger makes just short of $15 million per year. Last offseason, the Ravens' Joe Flacco signed his second contract, good enough for $20.1 million annually.
"It's a quarterback-driven league, so quarterbacks get rewarded a lot of money," Dalton said. "For a lot of these quarterbacks, if you're the quarterback of the team, you're the face of the franchise. So these teams obviously believe in their guy and they're going to pay him that way."
Dalton said his agents have been using several different forms of analysis to prove to the Bengals that he deserves an extension. They have included comparing other quarterbacks' first three seasons to his. Dalton set a pair of single-season franchise records last year and led the Bengals to a third straight playoff berth. It was the first time the team had been to the playoffs in that many consecutive seasons.
Cincinnati also has lost all three of the playoff games Dalton has started.
In addition to Dalton, the Bengals are in the middle of contract talks with Green's representatives. The Bengals exercised a fifth-year option on his rookie contract for the 2015 season.
"Andy, A.J. and Vontaze, man, they deserve to be paid," Peko said. "I can't wait to see when they sign their deals. It'll be awesome. That's good for our team because they're a big part of our team and we just want to make sure we keep those guys locked down because they're a hell of a few players."