Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports
The second act of Andy Dalton’s career is nearly the polar opposite of what it was at the start. At the beginning of his tenure with the Bengals, he was the bonafide starter under center, but in more recent years has been the veteran backup or stopgap quarterback as his organization figures out its next step at the position. In Cincinnati, he essentially held the starting role until the club drafted Joe Burrow with the No. 1 overall pick in 2020 and he was later released. Then, he went to serve as the backup in Dallas and was only thrust into the starting role following the season-ending injury to Dak Prescott.
With the Chicago Bears — the club he signed a one-year deal with earlier in free agency — Dalton was poised to be the starter in 2021 in what looked like an ideal situation to revitalize his career. Well, things changed rather quickly after the Bears traded up to draft Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields at the 2021 draft.
Dalton may still begin the year as the starter — and has gotten the first-team reps during OTAs — but it’s only a matter of time before he gives way to Fields. While that may impact the mentality of some players entering this kind of situation, Dalton relayed on Wednesday that the overall approach stays the same.
“I had a lot of different conversations with everybody here,” Dalton said when asked about the club drafting Fields. “I knew there was a possibility of it. When it happened, it is what it is. Justin’s a great guy. Getting to know him the last couple of weeks and getting to be around him, he’s going to make the quarterback room better.”
He later added: “I knew the situation I was going into, regardless of if they drafted somebody or they didn’t. I was on a one-year deal and I was going to be the starter. My mindset didn’t have to change. I already knew that I’m going to do everything I can to be the best player I can for this team and to help us win a lot of football games. That’s been my goal from the very beginning. Whatever happens after this year happens, but my mindset didn’t change just because they drafted Justin (Fields).”
Again, Dalton could very well be the guy who leads the offense out as the starter when Chicago’s season kicks off later this year and head coach Matt Nagy has even said as much. With that in mind, however, if the Bears struggle out of the gate and a window opens for Fields to leap over Dalton on the depth chart, that’s a move the club may not hesitate to make, which adds a bit more pressure onto Dalton’s first season in Chicago.