The first day of the Bengals voluntary offseason began like the day last season ended. With Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton answering a million questions as the club gathered at Paul Brown Stadium Monday morning.
But it was the first time he'd been at PBS since Bengals president Mike Brown and head coach Marvin Lewis spoke last month about hoping to get their quarterback locked up long term before this season's contract year.
And Monday was also the first day Dalton met with Hue Jackson as the Bengals offensive coordinator, his first of four NFL seasons without Jay Gruden.
After saying it's a quarterback-driven league and teams are paying big money to guys they believe are the faces of their franchises, he was asked if he think he's the Bengals' face.
"I do,' Dalton said. "Everything that Marvin has said, Hue has said and everybody here has told me that and has told everybody that. I'm confident of that. I hope to spend a lot of my career here."
Not much has been said about the talks, although indications are they in the nascent stages. Dalton did say his side is comparing him with the first three years of other quarterbacks. It's an impressive list. He's one of five quarterbacks to make the playoffs in his first three seasons. He's also one of three quarterbacks (Peyton Manning, Cam Newton) to throw for 3,000 yards in each of their first three seasons.
"That's what both sides have to do. We're obviously comparing guys in the first three years, what they've done and what they're doing now," Dalton said. "That's how we've come up with what we're wanting. I'm not worried about it. I'll them handle it."
When asked who is the best comparison, Dalton laughed and said, "(Joe) Flacco, (Aaron) Rodgers, (Drew) Brees. Who else is up there? Matt Ryan."
Those are, of course, among the highest-paid quarterbacks. One comparison at the web site Spotrac.com crunched Dalton's number at $18 million per year, but the players he mentioned have won at least one playoff game and all but Ryan have won Super Bowls.
Dalton is still looking for that first playoff win and he's clearly committed. He spent five days last month with quarterback guru Tom House and has spoken with Brees, House's first client. Beyond talking about implementing House's philosophy, Dalton said he picked Brees' brain on a variety of topics that included how he structured his day.
Flacco famously played out his contract year and won the biggest of all gambles with a Super Bowl MVP that netted him $20 million per year. Dalton isn't worried about doing it if push comes to shove.
"There's obviously some risk when that goes on, but I am confident in everything that I have been able to do and what I am going to do this year," Dalton said. "If it comes to that then it comes to that but I think both sides want to get it done. So, hopefully it happens."
Flacco went about it with a certain I'll-show-you-chip-on-the-shoulder. The reticent Dalton isn't looking to be that edgy, but he does have his critics in mind.
"The people who are the critics, they look at all of the negatives. They don't look at all of the stuff that I've accomplished," Dalton said. "They don't look at that I'm one of three quarterbacks in the history of the NFL to do certain things. They don't look at that kind of stuff. They want to find ways to tear me down but I'm not worried about that. They can say whatever they want. All that matters is what everyone believes in this organization and what I believe in myself. That's how I go about my business."
As for the May 8-10 NFL Draft, Dalton has heard the talk about the Bengals drafting a quarterback, but he says his understanding is they're not looking to replace him with that draft pick.
"From everything they've told me, they're not bringing in anybody to compete," Dalton said.