Everyone will be looking at one position battle when the Cincinnati Bengals next enter training camp: The competition for starting quarterback.
After nine years under center for the team, Andy Dalton’s time has seemingly come to an end. He is technically still on the roster, but the Bengals are expected to waive or trade the soon-to-be 33-year-old, depending on what happens at the draft and in free agency.
Everyone who’s anyone expects Cincy to use the No. 1 pick on LSU signal-caller Joe Burrow. He has been the consensus first-overall selection since he smoked Alabama’s offense in November of the 2019 season.
The real question is whether the Bengals will start him right away. Top picks are usually thrown right into the fire, but it’s tough to tell if the franchise is truly committed to a thorough rebuild. They might have designs on treading water in the playoff picture while grooming Burrow for the long term.
Of course, this all assumes the Bengals have someone to compete with the inbound QB for the starting position. Ryan Finley didn’t show enough during his reps in the 2019 season to warrant that consideration, though the possibility exists. He was selected in the first round of the 2019 draft, so the Bengals have plenty of asset equity in him, albeit not enough to pass on the chance to select Burrow, who is considered a potentially generational talent under center.
It stands to reason the Bengals will at least give Finley a chance to win the job. He could show out in training camp or the preseason, or Burrow himself could struggle to grasp the ins and outs of the NFL early on.
What the Bengals absolutely won’t do is sign another high-end quarterback to enter the fray. They’ll have two first-round signal-callers on their roster. Bringing in another would be excessive.
The only way their QB battle becomes a three-way competition is if Dalton returns to the team. He has no plans to retire and is still under contract. Many have theorized the New England Patriots could look to trade for him, but if a deal doesn’t materialize, the Bengals have the option of keeping him around to mentor both Finley and Burrow while giving him a shot to win the starting gig.
That might seem counterintuitive on its face. Dalton isn’t the future of the team. At the same time, many franchises have elected to begin the season with veterans before pivoting to their rookie QB. The Bengals could be the next squad to do so. We’ll just have to wait and see.