Quarterback Andy Dalton and the Cincinnati Bengals agreed to a six-year contract extension worth $115 million on Monday.
“He has in every way met our expectations,” head coach Marvin Lewis said at a press conference Monday announcing the deal. “I know he’s excited to be here, be part of Cincinnati and part of the Bengals’ organization.”
Dalton is 30-18 as a starter with the Bengals, who drafted the quarterback in the second round in 2011. Dalton is entering the final year of his rookie contract.
“I’m so thankful to be in this position. It’s crazy to think that after my senior year (at TCU) I had no idea where I was going to end up,” Dalton said in his opening remarks at Monday’s press conference. “To get drafted here, sign this extension … I’m just so blessed. So thankful.
“You do have it in the back of your mind — when is it going to get done? Where are we at certain points. It is a relief. I’m glad I’m sitting in front of you right now.”
Owner Mike Brown said Monday that executive vice president Katie Blackburn negotiated the contract after months of work.
“We wanted to be able to focus on football when the season came around,” Blackburn said.
Offensive coordinator Hue Jackson said Sunday that Dalton has been a different quarterback this summer.
“Very calm. Very assured of what he’s doing and how he’s doing it and where he needs to go with the ball,” Jackson said. “There’s good communication when he comes off. Even when things didn’t go right he could tell me why, what he felt. And that’s what you’ve got to look for. A quarterback’s got to be poised. He’s been very in control of when things have gone really good and when things have gone really bad. That’s a good sign.”
What Bengals fans are openly clamoring for is a different quarterback in the postseason, where Dalton is winless and has one touchdown and three interceptions in three one-and-done playoff games.
“I’m looking forward for the next seven years to be a part of this team and to be a part of this city,” said Dalton, who is under contract until 2020.
Dalton received assurances from coach Marvin Lewis and Brown that he would continue as the face of the franchise in April with the 2014 NFL Draft approaching. Cincinnati drafted Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron, but Lewis quickly defended the selection as a great value, not one made with need in mind.
“Andy has earned his place here,” Brown said. “We’re betting big on him, because we believe in him. We’re looking forward to the future with Andy.”
Dalton will make $1.7 million in 2014 under the terms of his existing deal but is now due a huge bump to the level of elite passers such as Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger and Philip Rivers.
“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.”
Brown said prior to training camp that he felt Dalton’s deal would be constructed following the model established in the 49ers-Colin Kaepernick contract that includes just $12.3 million guaranteed. Dalton received more guaranteed money.
Dalton set new franchise records for single-season passing yards and touchdowns in 2014.
Wide receiver A.J. Green, a first-round pick in 2011, said in June he wanted Dalton to be his quarterback for years to come. It’s now up to the Bengals to keep the pitch-catch tandem intact.
Green is entering the final season of his deal and coming off a career campaign wit 1,426 yards, 98 receptions and 11 touchdowns.
“My body of work speaks for itself,” Green said.
Jackson said there is still enough for Dalton to prove to keep him focused.
“The key to being a quarterback in the National Football League: No. 1 is winning, and he has that trait,” Jackson said. “No. 2 is being able to win the big games. Obviously, that’s the hump that we’re trying to get over. The guy has the makeup to do it.”