Ben Baby, ESPN Staff Writer 34d

Bengals: No decision yet on Andy Dalton's future

MOBILE, Ala. -- The longer the relationship, the harder the breakup.

Cincinnati Bengals director of player personnel Duke Tobin said Tuesday the franchise hasn't made a decision about quarterback Andy Dalton's future.

Some of that is about where the Bengals are in their draft process with the No. 1 overall pick and the opportunity to draft a top quarterback (read: Joe Burrow). But given the nine-year bond between Dalton and the franchise, Cincinnati will be slow to part ways with one of the top players in team history.

"We're not going to act with haste on Andy," Tobin told a small group of reporters Wednesday at the Senior Bowl. "Andy's meant so much to us over the years. We still value him. He's a proven NFL quarterback. I think other teams will value him when we start to make those decisions."

By referencing the value the rest of the league could find in Dalton, Tobin hinted at a breakup that benefits both parties.

Dalton still has one year remaining on his six-year contract with Cincinnati, the franchise that drafted him in 2011. If the Bengals decide to trade or cut Dalton, they will avoid a cap hit of $17.7 million, financial flexibility that will allow them to improve a rebuilding roster. That will also free up Dalton, 32, to be a starting quarterback for another team next season.

Despite the likely outcomes, however, Tobin said nothing has been decided. That includes drafting the quarterback of the future.

"We'll judge the incoming guys in this draft with respect to our team and we'll make that determination as we go," Tobin said. "I probably disagree with the premise that at some point we came to a clarity that, 'God, we need a new quarterback.'"

Dalton struggled in 2019 as the Bengals (2-14) sputtered to their worst season since 2002. He completed 59.5% of his passes, throwing 16 touchdowns and 14 interceptions for an offense that was without its starting left tackle (Jonah Williams) and top wide receiver (A.J. Green) for the entire season.

Once Dalton was benched for a three-game stint while the Bengals evaluated rookie Ryan Finley, all signs pointed to Cincinnati taking a quarterback in the first round of the draft. And as Burrow went from a typical SEC quarterback to a Heisman winner, he has become the fixation of a fan base that provided the most empty seats since Paul Brown Stadium opened in 2000.

Before the end of the regular season, Bengals coach Zac Taylor said he was indifferent about having a veteran quarterback on the roster. If Dalton leaves this offseason, Finley will be the most experienced quarterback on the roster.

Tobin said taking action on Dalton is the step after whatever the team does in the draft. That leaves Dalton in Cincinnati -- for now.

"Point A has to happen first before we start talking about how other people might fit," Tobin said. "It would depend on the player. It would depend on whether he's a guy that can start immediately or not. So there's a lot of moving pieces to that and we'll figure it out as we go."

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