Why, yes, Dalton is worth $18 million a year to Bengals

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Andy Dalton just saw the quarterback drafted one spot after him in 2011, Colin Kaepernick, get a contract extension worth up to $21 million a season from the 49ers. So what does that mean for Dalton’s imminent new deal with the Bengals?

Above all else, Dalton hopes the Kaepernick pact just sped up his own timetable.

“I think the biggest thing is that it got done,” Dalton said during his minicamp press conference in Cincinnati on Tuesday. “That's one thing that you see, that they took the time and were able to find a middle ground and get it done. So I'm hopeful that will happen for me soon.”

Because of the year-to-year nature of Kaepernick’s unique contract and the Bengals’ salary-cap situation ($25 million in space), Dalton also is aware, as a full three-year starter with three playoff trips, his situation is different. It compares better to two other, older quarterbacks.

“Dalton can expect to get something in line with Jay Cutler or Matt Stafford got per season," a source told Sporting News.

Dalton’s coach, Marvin Lewis, name-dropped Cutler and what he got from the Bears (seven years, $126 million, $38 million fully guaranteed at time of signing) in a Sports Illustrated interview last month, relating it to his own quarterback.

Lewis was right. One can easily put Dalton in the second quarterback salary tier with Cutler, the Lions’ Stafford and the Cowboys’ Tony Romo. He’s younger than all three and has a better recent track record of durability and overall team success.

For everyone who harps on Dalton’s struggles in the playoff losses, it’s unfair to not look at the big picture of how he’s shown steady improvement over each of his regular seasons.

Dalton is not only worth an average of $18 million per season, but the Bengals are also fortunate it’s the high end for what Dalton is reportedly asking.

With other young stars such as linebacker Vontaze Burfict (more immediate) and wide receiver A.J. Green (less immediate) due for their own big deals, the Bengals will want to solve the biggest piece of their salary puzzle now.

“That’s a big placeholder for our football team, Andy’s deal,” Lewis told SN’s Ross Tucker on SiriusXM NFL Radio’s The Opening Drive on Wednesday. “We’ve had great talks and we’re in good position. We just need to close in on it.”