With Bengals reportedly releasing QB Andy Dalton, could Patriots swoop in?

A few days after making Joe Burrow the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NFL draft, the Cincinnati Bengals are reportedly cutting the cord with Andy Dalton.

Dalton started the second-most games at quarterback in Bengals franchise history with 133, behind Ken Anderson’s 172, and had the highest win percentage with the franchise of any QB with more than 50 starts (.534). He’s also first in team history in TD passes with 204 and second to Anderson with 31,594 passing yards.

The writing was on the wall when first-year Bengals head coach Zac Taylor benched Dalton in favor of 2019 fourth-rounder Ryan Finley for a three-game spell, although the team went back to Dalton at the end of the season.

Dalton, 32, finished last season with 3,494 pass yards, 16 TDs and 14 INTs in 13 starts, completing only 59.5 percent of his passes. The three-time Pro Bowler has seen his accuracy and effectiveness dip over the past few seasons, but he led the only team he’s played for to winning seasons in his first five years in the league after winning the job as a rookie in the lockout year of 2011.

Dalton’s Bengals made the postseason four times in his run as a starter. The team lost all four games.

The Heisman Trophy-winning Burrow now has a good chance to win the Week 1 starting job, even if the offseason is limited because of the coronavirus pandemic shutting down some portions of NFL activity for the time being.

CINCINNATI, OH - DECEMBER 15: Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton (14) calls a play during the game against the New England Patriots and the Cincinnati Bengals on December 15th 2019, at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati, OH. (Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Next destination: New England?

Now that Daltion is free, could the New England Patriots ring him up?

Bill Belichick didn’t draft a QB last weekend, waiting to sign undrafted free agents Brian Lewerke and J’Mar Smith at the position. They are currently on the roster along with QBs Jarrett Sitdham and Brian Hoyer.

After watching Tom Brady sign with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Patriots were considered candidates to draft a QB. They made 10 selections last weekend — none of them at the position.

According to Belichick, the draft picture just didn’t lay out that way.

“If we feel like we find the right situation, we’ll certainly draft them. We’ve drafted [QBs] in multiple years, multiple points in the draft,” Belichick said Saturday after the draft. “Didn’t work out the last three days. That wasn’t by design. We just tried to do the best we could with what we had this weekend.”

Dalton has been mentioned as someone who could replace Brady, or at least provide competition with Stidham and Hoyer, who now are expected to battle for the starting job.

Stidham completed only 2 of 4 passes for 11 yards and an interception that was run back for a TD in his three games of action as a rookie. He was a fourth-round pick of the Patriots a year ago.

Hoyer is now in his third tenure with the Patriots. He signed with the team as an undrafted free agent in 2009, serving three years as Brady’s backup, before rejoining the team in 2018 following the Jimmy Garoppolo trade.

Hoyer has never started a game for the Patriots but appeared in 23 games, completing 32 of 51 passes (62.7 percent) for 335 yards with one TD and one INT. Last season with the Colts, Hoyer saw action in four games, starting one and completing 35 of 65 passes (53.8 percent) for 372 yards with four TDs and four INTs.

Dalton’s career achievements far surpass those of both Hoyer and Stidham combined. Could he be added to the mix in New England? Only the secretive Belichick will decide if that’s the QB dynamic he wants.

Are there other teams interested?

One issue with the Patriots as a potential Dalton landing spot: They’re up against the salary cap. Prior to signing any of their 10 draft picks, New England has about $1.7 million in salary-cap space. A big chunk of that is tied up on franchised left guard Joe Thuney and his tender of nearly $14.8 million.

It appears there might be another team in the mix for Dalton’s services.

The Jaguars have Gardner Minshew penciled in as the starter, with Joshua Dobbs (whom they acquired from the Pittsburgh Steelers last year) and 2020 sixth-rounder Jake Luton from Oregon State.

If the Jaguars want a more experienced backup behind Minshew, then Dalton makes sense. Jacksonville offensive coordinator Jay Gruden was Dalton’s OC for the quarterback’s first three years in the NFL (2011-2013).

Minshew played in 14 games as a rookie in 2019, taking over for an injured Nick Foles in Week 1 and starting 12 games. He completed 285-of-470 passes (60.6 percent) for 3,271 yards with 21 TDs and six INTs. The Jaguars were 6-6 in games Minshew started, and 0-4 with Foles starting.

Foles was traded to the Bears this offseason, and Dobbs didn’t take a snap last season after the team traded a fifth-round pick to the Steelers for him.

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