CINCINNATI — 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 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 and Green, Cincinnati’s first-round pick that year, led Cincinnati to its best stretch of playoff appearances.
The Bengals lost in the first round each time, setting an NFL record. Dalton had a broken thumb and was sidelined for the last of those playoff appearances, which ended in a last-minute meltdown and an 18-16 loss to Pittsburgh during the 2015 season.
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, a move that shocked Dalton and his longtime teammates. Dalton was upset the Bengals didn’t try to trade him before the deadline.
Rookie Ryan Finley started the next three games and was even worse, prompting Taylor to reinstate Dalton as the starter for the rest of the season. Dalton led the Bengals to their two wins.
When Cincinnati drafted Burrow 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.
His 70-61-2 record as a starter is second best by a Bengals quarterback with at least 10 starts, trailing Virgil Carter.
Dalton and his wife, J.J,, were active in the community through their foundation. Most recently, they donated $150,000 to a local health crisis fund to help meet medical needs during the coronavirus pandemic.
Dalton became a popular figure in Buffalo when his 49-yard touchdown pass knocked off Baltimore in 2017 and put the Bills in the playoffs for the first time in 17 years. Bills fans donated to his foundation and gave him an ovation when Cincinnati played a preseason game in Buffalo. The Daltons donated to a cancer center in the city during the visit.