Jan 5, 2014; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton (14) throws a pass during the 2013 AFC wild card playoff football game against the San Diego Chargers at Paul Brown Stadium. The Chargers defeated the Bengals 27-10. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Andy Dalton Deal Is Good News For Kansas City Chiefs

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The Chiefs scored another victory in the fight to keep Alex Smith in Kansas City at an affordable price.

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton signed what on the surface looks like an obnoxious six-year, $115 million extension to keep Dalton in Cincinnati. In his short career Dalton has yet to win a playoff game in most part because he’s been terrible, throwing six interceptions and only one touchdown in three playoff games. In comparison, Alex Smith has thrown nine touchdowns and no interceptions in his three career playoff appearances.

So why give Dalton a $115 million deal when there are more questions out there about him than there are answers? Because they are not giving him $115 million.

Pro Football Talk got the details of Dalton’s contract and, not surprisingly, the deal is very team friendly. Cincinnati has essentially given Dalton a two-year, $25 million contract with about four option years. Here’s some of the basics from the PFT post:

The most important numbers are the numbers fully guaranteed at signing.  Dalton receives a signing bonus of $12 million and a roster bonus in three days of $5 million.  That’s a total of $17 million out of the gates.  Coupled with his $986,000 base salary (which isn’t guaranteed as a legal matter but it is as a practical matter), Dalton will make $18 million in the first year of the deal.

Then, on the third day of the 2015 league year in March, Dalton earns a $4 million roster bonus.  He also has a $3 million non-guaranteed base salary in 2015.  That’s $25 million over two years.

In addition to annual workout bonuses of $200,000, Dalton has base salaries of $10.5 million in 2016, $13.1 million in 2017, $13.7 million in 2018, $16 million in 2019, and $17.5 million in 2020.

Dalton’s new deal is also loaded with incentives for playoff appearances, playing time, and performance that could end up boosting the value of his contract.

In short, Cincinnati has given Dalton two years to prove his worth at well below franchise tag value before they are forced to make a longterm decision. After two years everything becomes a year-to-year situation. If Dalton proves to be a very good quarterback then the Bengals have him locked up at a very fair price, but if Dalton fails then they can easily part ways with him after 2015.

So two years, $25 million, and then we’ll see after that. Are you good with that for Alex Smith? You should be, especially if you are on the “franchise tag” bandwagon, because they deal would save the Chiefs million of dollars in cap space.

We’ve been saying this all offseason and I’ll say it again:

IGNORE THE OVERALL VALUE, IT’S ALL ABOUT THE CONTRACT STRUCTURE.

Even after the Jamaal Charles deal, the Chiefs still have some room to work with when it comes to salary cap space in 2014. Over The Cap has Kansas City with about $5.5 million remaining in cap space now that the official terms of Charles deal have been calculated. Restructuring Smith’s 2014 numbers ($8 million cap hit presently) to include more of his bonus money, the Chiefs could load up a lot of his cap hit in 2014, keep his salary cap number under $12 million for 2015, and then put themselves in a situation where they could part with him before the 2016 season if they’ve found a young quarterback they like more than Smith.

And if the Chiefs want to keep Smith beyond 2015, they will be well positioned to absorb his larger cap hits. OTC conservatively projects the Chiefs of having about $90 million in cap space available for 2016. Now that number does include predicted contracts for Smith, Justin Houston, Dontari Poe, or Eric Berry and doesn’t include contracts for the 2015 draft class, but it is also based on a predicted $150 million salary cap. Some are predicting the salary cap could be over $155 million by 2016 once new television revenues start to kick in.

The real win for the Chiefs today is Dalton makes the second consecutive contract extension to be structured in a way that allows the team to part ways early in the deal without having to pay a significant price. Both Dalton and Colin Kaepernick’s contracts are set up to be short term deals with the franchise having the option to go year-to-year after an initial period of time. This gives the team’s immediate cap flexibility and the chance to hit an eject button while still holding the rights of the player for an extended period of time.

Ultimately this is what the Chiefs want to do – keep Smith at an affordable price short term with long terms options and the ability to abort the contract if something better comes along. The franchise tag route is too expensive and does guarantee long term security, and simply letting him walk would put the Chiefs in a position where they could be without a quality quarterback again. Sure, Aaron Murray or Tyler Bray could end up being good but neither has played a single regular season game in the NFL, who knows if either one of them will ever figure it out. It is better for the Chiefs to hold as many cards as they can at the position.

I have a feeling there are a good number of you who completely disagree with this assessment. Feel free to tell me why I’m wrong in the comments, Addicts.

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