Three of the four teams in the AFC North last season drafted quarterbacks in the 2018 NFL Draft whom they viewed potentially as their franchise for the future. Two of them have already retrieved positive returns for their investment.
The Baltimore Ravens’ Lamar Jackson going 6-1 as a starter and leading a late postseason charge. Baker Mayfield, the first-overall pick for the Cleveland Browns, set a new rookie passing record with 27 touchdowns even though he only started 13 games. The Pittsburgh Steelers have Ben Roethlisberger, but they viewed Mason Rudolph as similarly talented to the first-round quarterbacks and did not want to pass on him in the third round.
The Cincinnati Bengals were the only team not to meaningfully address the position, though they did eventually use a seventh-round pick on Logan Woodside, who was most recently seen participating in the Alliance of American Football.
Cincinnati made a change at head coach this offseason with the hiring of Zach Taylor, who was the Los Angeles Rams’ quarterbacks coach, helping lead Jared Goff into one of the bright young players at the position since being made the first-overall pick in 2016.
Given his offensive mind, many figured that he would have significant input on the question of whether or not Andy Dalton would be the future of the Bengals’ offense. While he is under contract for two more years, his deal has run past the five-year period in which dead money would accrue, so they are not bound to him.
With the 11th-overall pick, Cincinnati could have drafted Dwayne Haskins. Instead, they waited until the fourth round to add Ryan Finley to the quarterback room. Finley is seen as a quarterback who very much is in the model of Dalton, himself a former second-round pick in 2011.
For his part, Dalton told reporters that he was not surprised by the Bengals’ decision to add to the quarterback room, and he also didn’t see it as a comment on his own position. “They’re trying to create some competition as a backup and that’s why you bring him in”, he told reporters earlier in the week. “They obviously liked him, felt like he fit this system, and we had to get our numbers up” at the quarterback position.
Throughout the offseason, the consensus has been that Taylor and the Bengals envisioned giving Dalton the 2019 season, and hopefully with a healthy offense around him, before judging where to go in 2020. The organization believes that he played well when healthy in 2018, but of course he finished on injured reserve along with A.J. Green.
After all, if the Bengals are bad enough, they should be drafting high enough in 2020 to be within reach of a top prospect at the quarterback position. They routinely drafted in the top 10 or 15 prior to Marvin Lewis’ arrival.