Andy Dalton could see his time as Cincinnati Bengals quarterback was nearing an end when he was benched in the middle of the 2019 season.
At the time, he asked for a trade but was denied that opportunity.
Now, a week after drafting LSU quarterback Joe Burrow No. 1 overall, the Bengals are officially moving on from the nine-year veteran. They announced Thursday they have released Dalton, the team’s 2011 second-round pick who was entering the final year of his contract. The Bengals save $17.7 million in cap space with the move.
“Andy will always hold a special place with this franchise, and I know that he holds a special place in my heart,” team president Mike Brown said in a statement provided by the team. “This is a hard day for our club because we know and appreciate what a consummate professional Andy has always been. We respect and appreciate Andy, and we thank him.”
»PHOTOS: Andy Dalton through the years
Dalton finishes his Bengals career with a 70-61-2 record, holding the franchise records for career passing touchdowns (204), completions (2,757), passer rating (87.5) and 300-yard passing games (28). He leaped Ken Anderson in the completions and touchdowns categories during a 22-6 win over the New York Jets on Dec. 1.
The former TCU quarterback was benched midway through the 2019 season on the day of the trade deadline – also his 32nd birthday — so the Bengals could take a look at 2019 fourth-round pick Ryan Finley. When that experiment failed after three games, Dalton returned to his starting role and led the team to two wins in the final five games; however, it wasn’t enough to lift Cincinnati out of the league basement. An overtime loss at Miami on Dec. 22 sealed the fate that would bring Burrow to the Queen City.
“Andy Dalton has represented the city of Cincinnati and the Bengal QB family with class and success both on and off the field,” Anderson wrote on Twitter. “I am proud to call him a friend and wish him nothing but the best of luck. Wherever he goes will be lucky to have him.”
The day after the season finale win against Cleveland, Dalton went around the locker room at Paul Brown Stadium saying his goodbyes to local media “just in case” it was the last time he would see them.
Bengals executives indicated this offseason they were willing to trade Dalton, but a quarterback-heavy market may have muddied the waters on that possibility. It was unlikely Cincinnati was going to keep a $17.7 million investment on the bench, but Burrow came in expected to compete for the starting job. According to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, Dalton asked for his release.
Dalton said before the 2019 finale he came into the season expecting it to be a successful turnaround under Taylor, who was hired in February 2019. He didn’t know then that A.J. Green would never play a down, John Ross would miss half the season, the running game and defense would be slow to pick up and the team would be utilizing a third- and fourth-string left tackle for the first 10 games. The Bengals finished 2-14 and missed the playoffs for a fourth straight year.
The team’s recent shortcomings were a struggle for Dalton, he said in December. He began his career with a squad that went 4-12 the year before and helped lead the Bengals to a 9-7 record and the first of five straight playoff appearances. Cincinnati selected him in the second round of the 2011 draft, after taking Green fourth overall, and he immediately stepped in as the starter to replace a disgruntled Carson Palmer.
“Andy will always be considered a key member of the Bengals’ organization,” Taylor said in the team release. “His teammates and coaches appreciate his leadership and his commitment to winning. Just as importantly, Andy and his wife JJ are leaving a lasting impact in the community with the incredible work their foundation has done over the years. Andy and his family have meant a lot to this team and this city, and we wish them the best in the future.”
Off the field, Dalton’s community contributions have been among the most significant in Cincinnati sports history.
Following his rookie season in 2011, he and his wife, JJ, established the Andy & JJ Dalton Foundation, which conducts a wide range of community outreach efforts in the Cincinnati and Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas areas. The foundation’s mission is to provide opportunities, support, resources and life-changing experiences to seriously ill and physically challenged children. Dalton’s work in the community was recognized during the 2016 season, when he was named the Bengals’ nominee for the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year Award.
The Cincinnati Chapter of the Pro Football Writers of America honored Dalton as the recipient of the organization’s 2019 “Good Guy” award.
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