Dalton's deal shows Bengals trust him

CINCINNATI -- When Cincinnati Bengals president Mike Brown told reporters two weeks ago that he liked the way his "Steady Eddy" starting quarterback played, he was telling the truth.

That became evident just after 10 a.m. ET Monday, when ESPN NFL Insiders Adam Schefter and Adam Caplan reported that Andy Dalton, the much-maligned Bengals quarterback -- who was often criticized for being anything other than steady -- had signed a six-year, $115 million contract extension that will keep him in orange and black stripes through 2020.

That is, it would seem, as long as he continues to perform to the front office's liking.

"Andy has earned his place here; he has gained the confidence of the coaches and the players and the management of the team," Brown said at Monday's news conference. "We're betting big on him because we believe in him."

Brown gave additional reasons during the team's recent kickoff luncheon as to why he and so many others around Paul Brown Stadium like Dalton.

"He's Steady Eddy," Brown said. "He competes. He doesn't do stupid things. We might not outshine everybody. We are the turtle in the race, if you will, but don't count us out. We are going to keep on chugging. That's what he does for us. He keeps us focused. He makes us a winning team. I don't discount that. I hold that in high regard."

Yes, it's true, the Bengals are a regular-season winner with Dalton at the helm. He has gone 30-18 and reached the postseason in each of the three seasons he has played since getting drafted 35th overall in 2011. He also has guided his team to two winning streaks of four games or more in his career. During last season's four-game midseason streak, Dalton threw for 300 yards or more in three of those games.

When you consider that the Bengals had been to the playoffs only twice in the 20 years before Dalton's arrival, his regular-season success becomes even more noteworthy.

It is that success (and perhaps the fact there aren't a lot of options out there at quarterback) that is perhaps the biggest reason the Bengals clearly feel they can trust him, even if the structure of his contract might tell a different story. Those details aren't yet public, but it's possible some parts of Dalton's new deal mimic Colin Kaepernick's. Along with his comments above, Brown admitted during the kickoff luncheon that he liked the way the San Francisco 49ers structured Kaepernick's recent deal.

"There's always something that cuts for the team or cuts for the player," Brown said. "In Kaepernick's case, there's some things we like."

Kaepernick's contract is a pay-for-play type of setup that allows the 49ers to opt out after this season if Kaepernick doesn't meet their measures of success. The six-year, $121 million agreement might look great on the surface, but it has been characterized as a team-centric, bonus-laden deal.

Bengals executive vice president Katie Blackburn, who handles contract negotiations these days and was the chief operator on Dalton's deal, said the Bengals didn't use Kaepernick's deal as a measuring stick.

"In all honesty, while we discussed [Kaepernick's deal], we had started down a path at that time and we pretty much stayed on the path that we started down," Blackburn said. "It had some similarities, coincidentally, a little bit of what you saw in the Kaepernick deal, just in little ways. But you can probably say that about all the deals."

With the decade of disappointment, the 1990s, still as much a part of the fabric of this city as its famous chili, there are reasons the Bengals would want to protect themselves in case Dalton does struggle, something he has done at times during his career.

The 26-year-old's biggest drawback has been his performance past Week 17. The Bengals are 0-3 in his postseason trips, which include six interceptions and just one touchdown. He also has posted an 18.1 career playoff QBR that stands in stark contrast to the 51.5 QBR he has lifetime in the regular season. Numbers like that have had some in Cincinnati wondering whether an extension of Dalton's four-year, $5.2 million rookie deal ought to have come before this season, or ever.

It will be incumbent upon the Bengals to continue to protect the player who in April called himself the face of the franchise by keeping pieces like A.J. Green (who will play out a fifth-year option next year) and linebacker Vontaze Burfict (whose own contract negotiations stalled last week) around him.

He certainly appears to be the face now. It doesn't matter how the money comes Dalton's way, the message has been sent. The Bengals trust their quarterback. Now it's time for him to put up and shut the rest of us up.

"I expect this team to play better, I expect myself to play better," Dalton said Monday. "Regardless of what happened with the contract, I expected to go into this year with that same attitude."

He has the Bengals convinced. It's time to do the same with the rest of us.