The Bengals cleared the way for Joe Burrow to lead the team by releasing quarterback Andy Dalton, who holds several of the franchise’s passing records but couldn’t lead Cincinnati deep into the playoffs.
The move Thursday gives Dalton, who had a year left on his deal, a chance to compete for a job with another team.
It also clears the way for Heisman Trophy-winning Burrow to start fresh on a team that hasn’t won a playoff game since the 1990 season, the fifth-longest stretch of futility in NFL history.
Dalton led Cincinnati to its best stretch of playoff appearances — five straight from 2011-15 — but couldn’t get that elusive win. As the offensive line deteriorated and top receiver A.J. Green sustained a series of injuries, Dalton’s results suffered, too.
Dalton was a second-round pick in 2011 when quarterback Carson Palmer demanded a trade and threatened to retire rather than continue playing for the Bengals. Dalton was one of the NFL’s most efficient passers when given a solid supporting cast. He led the AFC with a 106.3 passer rating in 2015.
Coach Zac Taylor signaled the end of Dalton’s career in Cincinnati by benching him for three games midway through last year’s 2-14 season.
When Cincinnati drafted Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Burrow of LSU first overall last week, the question was whether the Bengals would keep Dalton for the final year on his contract and use him to mentor the rookie, or let him try to win a starting job with another team.
Dalton, 32, holds Bengals career records for touchdown passes (204) and completions (2,757), surpassing Ken Anderson — who also wore No. 14 — for both marks. He also holds club marks for career passer rating (87.5) and games with 300 yards passing. His 24 game-winning drives also are the most by a Bengals quarterback.