With reports mounting that Cincinnati Bengals starting quarterback Andy Dalton is going to receive a contract extension—one that may pay him like the "face of the franchise" he believes he is—there is no reason to believe the Bengals will be selecting a young quarterback to push Dalton in the upcoming NFL draft.
In fact, Dalton himself dismissed the possibility, saying that the team has assured him a potential successor won't be joining the roster this year: "From everything they've told me, they're not bringing in anybody to compete," were his exact words to Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com.
However, that fact doesn't preclude the Bengals from drafting a quarterback this year—it just means that whoever they do draft, he won't be any threat to Dalton's starting job. Ultimately, quarterback could be one of the positions the Bengals do address in next month's draft.
Currently, the Bengals have four quarterbacks on their roster—Dalton, last year's backup Josh Johnson, the presumed veteran backup for this year, Jason Campbell, and Zac Robinson.
Johnson may not be with the team much longer with Campbell on board—Campbell knows offensive coordinator Hue Jackson's system well, dating back to the pair's time in Oakland. And Robinson, a 2010 seventh-round draft pick, could give way to a younger, developmental prospect to succeed not Dalton, but Campbell.
The Bengals have nine picks in the 2014 NFL draft and not many pressing needs. It wouldn't be a wasted pick if they used a mid- or late-round selection on a quarterback. It's not about preserving Dalton's feelings if he's already been told he'll have no competition. And any quarterback they select won't come at the expense of another position of greater need.
Having developmental quarterbacks in the pipeline is necessary for every team in the NFL. For OTAs, training camp, the scout team and as potential injury replacements (if it comes to that), having a young quarterback learning the system is never a bad idea.
The financial impact of a rookie wouldn't be much greater than what the Bengals are paying Robinson presently. Robinson is in the final year of his two-year, $1.05 million contract and is making $570,000 in 2014.
In comparison, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Landry Jones, whom the team drafted in the fourth round last year to be third on the depth chart, has a $604,805 cap hit this year that includes $495,000 in base salary. The $30,000 or so difference between the two is negligible.
So, who could the Bengals target in Rounds 4 or 5 to back up their backup quarterback?
Virginia Tech's Logan Thomas would be a good system fit. Jackson likes his quarterbacks to have a degree of mobility—he's not interested in someone so run-centric like Colin Kaepernick, but he'd prefer not to have a statue under center, either. Thomas could execute the offense well enough with the third team while working on some of his problems, namely accuracy.
Thomas completed just 57 percent of his passes in 2013 and 51 percent in 2012, and he had 13 rushing touchdowns over those two years as well. Thomas has a strong arm, yes, but his drawbacks as a complete passer could push him to the third day of the draft. As a third-string quarterback, his risks are diminished.
Tajh Boyd from Clemson would also be a good candidate for a Bengals mid-round pick. Like Thomas, Boyd is mobile and strong-armed but inaccurate as a passer. In 2013, Boyd completed 287 of his 418 passes for 3,851 yards and 34 touchdowns to 11 interceptions. He also rushed 154 times for 400 yards and 10 scores.
Finally, South Carolina's Connor Shaw could be another candidate for the Bengals. Shaw attempted 284 passes in 2013, with 180 completions for 2,447 yards and 24 touchdowns to one interception. He rushed 154 times for 558 yards and six scores. Shaw is tough, having played through numerous injuries during his collegiate career, but his lack of ideal size and arm strength has him pegged for a backup role in the NFL.
The Bengals' admission to Dalton that they won't be drafting a quarterback to compete with him might be an indicator that a young quarterback is on their wish list for the draft and that they don't want Dalton to get any ideas about their intentions when they choose to draft one.
Though Dalton could certainly use a push, he'll get that from the fiery Jackson. The Bengals drafting a quarterback this year wouldn't be about finding a project quarterback or potential spot starter, but rather a quarterback who adds another arm and at the same time fits Jackson's offense.
This year's draft is full of passers who fit that mold, while the Bengals are at the same time a team that doesn't need every one of their 2014 draft picks to eventually become starters. It makes perfect sense for the Bengals to use a fourth- or fifth-round pick to revamp their quarterback depth.
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