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The Chicago Bears agreed to terms that will bring in veteran quarterback Andy Dalton on a one-year deal for $10M, with up to $12M available in incentives. Finding the silver lining in this situation is straightforward: Dalton is the best quarterback that has ever had the luxury of playing with superstar receiver Allen Robinson. This signing will almost assuredly lock Robinson in as a top receiver for the 2021 season. As for Dalton though, does he have any fantasy relevance himself? Well, quite a few things would need to fall into place, and it seems pretty unlikely.
Andy Dalton's Background
Let’s rewind an entire decade. The year is 2011 and the Cincinnati Bengals just allowed former first-overall pick, Carson Palmer, to walk in free agency. This move comes after seven seasons and an 0-2 playoff record. The Bengals select Andy Dalton, a fiery quarterback out of Texas Christian University, to replace Palmer. Dalton is fresh off a Rose Bowl win and seems to be an early-second round steal in the draft. The rookie quarterback is given the benefit of playing with that year’s fourth-overall pick, phenom receiver A.J. Green. That duo will make history over the next few years but won’t pull a single meaningful win.
Through their first seven seasons together, Dalton and Green connected to hit the 1,000-yard mark in all but one campaign. Green was injured in 2016 and missed six games but still put up 964 yards. Dalton posted an impressive 63-44-2 record over those seven seasons. Just like the guy he came in to replace though, his glaring winless record in the postseason spoke louder than his regular season accolades. There were four playoff appearances for Dalton and the Bengals. He led those teams to four losses and no wins.
Dalton battled through injuries over the next two seasons, missing seven total games and going 7-17. At this point, the Bengals decided to let him walk and drafted their next hopeful franchise quarterback in Joe Burrow. Dalton signed a one-year/$3M contract to back up Dak Prescott in Dallas. Many people thought that was how we would see the veteran quarterback ride off into the sunset.
Second Act in Dallas
However, just four and a half weeks into the 2020 season, Dalton suddenly found himself back under center after Prescott suffered a brutal season-ending foot injury. After seeing the explosive Cowboys’ offense over the last few seasons, Dalton seemed primed to step in and carry this team to the top of the NFC East. He squeaked out a Week 5 win, and the Cowboys sat atop the division at 2-3. Surrounded with top-tier weapons, it seemed as if all Dalton needed to do was take on the game manager role in the league’s worst division to make the playoffs. Dalton started in nine games from that point, going 4-5 and eventually missing the postseason. He averaged 229 yards per game during that stretch, slinging 14 touchdowns and eight picks while taking a whopping 23 sacks.
Those 23 sacks jump off of the stat sheet. Now 33 years old, Dalton doesn’t have the mobility and resilience that he had earlier in his career. The Bengals struggled to get him a solid offensive line in his later years, and he took 2.5 sacks per game over his final four seasons, almost precisely what he averaged in 2020 in Dallas. While the Cowboys and Bears are built very differently, they both ranked bottom-12 in pass blocking in 2020. As of now, the Bears have done nothing to upgrade their offensive line, which doesn’t bode well for Dalton’s ability to turn his career around.
Hopes for Chicago
In addition to a porous offensive line, the Bears don’t have many offensive weapons outside of Allen Robinson. Darnell Mooney - who showed flashes of upside as a rookie - is still a pretty raw receiver with a limited route tree. Anthony Miller has regressed after showing some potential in college. And second-year tight end Cole Kmet is still in the developmental stage of his career. Dalton had his safety blanket in A.J. Green throughout his tenure in Cincinnati and force-fed him a ludicrous 9.2 targets per game over their eight seasons together. With Allen Robinson garnering 151-plus targets in consecutive seasons, it’s easy to slot him in for that level of usage again.
The big question remaining is how Dalton will fare in Chicago. Simply put, he isn’t set up for success. With Foles still on the books for $8M in 2021, Dalton isn’t even guaranteed the starting job. These two veterans are likely to go into camp fighting for the starting duties. Given the lack of offensive line and shallow pool of playmakers, it’s tough to expect that Dalton even sniffs the QB1 tier. He was never much of a threat on the ground and has averaged just 9.3 rushing yards per game throughout his career. The only “non-mobile” quarterback to finish as a top-10 fantasy option in 2020 was Tom Brady. No disrespect is meant towards Dalton here, but he is not Brady, and the Bears don’t have a roster that comes close to resembling what the Buccaneers have put together.
If Dalton wins the starting job, he’ll make a viable option as a low-end QB2 or streamer. It’s unfortunate, but he landed in a challenging position with the Bears. He does get reunited with his old offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, who is calling plays for the Bears now. That familiarity could help him, but seeing a quarterback in his 30’s turn back the clock doesn’t often happen, especially when he struggled under his guide in 2017 and 2018. Referencing the beginning of this article though, at least Allen Robinson finally gets a respectable quarterback for the first time in his career. Whether Dalton is enough to get him to sign his franchise tag tender, well, that’s a whole ‘nother story.