By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) — With Andy Dalton reportedly set to put pen to paper on a new contract that will pay him $115 million over the next six years, it is a celebratory moment for the 26-year-old and his family.

For the rest of the football world? It is somewhat of a laugh riot.

While Dalton has accomplished a few things in the first three years of his career, you’d still be hard-pressed to try to make the case that Dalton is one of the game’s premier passers. Last year, in his best professional season, he ranked 12th in yards per attempt, 15th in passer rating and 15th in completion percentage. His touchdown total (33) was third-best, and he ranked seventh in passing yards, but he also threw 20 interceptions, good enough for fifth-most in the league. For all the good he does on the field, he does nearly the same amount of bad.

So, as long as the guaranteed money is about in line with most of the league’s big-bucks contracts, Dalton may very well spend the next few years fighting a neck-and-neck battle with Joe Flacco in the competition for being the NFL’s most overpaid player. (Colin Kaepernick may well join that fight, too.)

And on the flip side of that, whenever such a contract gets drawn up in the NFL, it is yet another reminder that there is no greater value in professional sports than Tom Brady.

Yes, the unadulterated praise of Brady two years ago when he restructured his contract did in fact miss the mark, as the quarterback did so in order to guarantee himself some money in his late 30s. Still, the reworked deal came out to be a five-year pact worth $57 million, all of it just about guaranteed.

Considering Brady plays the most important individual position in all of team sports, and considering he remains one of the very best at his profession, the deal only looks like more and more of a bargain as time goes on.

Yes, it is very likely that in a couple of years, when Brady is 39 years old, he might not be quite as exceptional at the sport as he once was. Yet despite some people saying otherwise, he’s just not there yet. When you watch Brady run the offense, he’s still in complete command of his 10 teammates, intellectually functioning at a level that only Peyton Manning can match. (Consider, too, that Manning has a five-year, $96 million contract.) Brady’s arm strength allows him to deliver intermediate passes with as much force as he ever has, and his mental and physical mistakes remain few and far between.

Basically, if you were building a team to try to win right now, you’d want Tom Brady under center at any price. If you were starting a team from scratch and were thinking long term, you probably wouldn’t want Dalton for $115 million, and you probably wouldn’t want Flacco at $120 million ($52 million guaranteed).

(In the Flacco contract, though, we’re all forever grateful for its existence, as it resulted in this wild-and-crazy justification on Great reporting done at that website, I tell ya.)

The Dalton deal also reinforces the fact that while the Patriots may not follow the perfect business model, they’re still leap years ahead of teams like the Bengals. Cincinnati will pay Marvin Lewis, he of the 0-5 career head-coaching record in the postseason, through the 2015 season to lead the team. The Bengals will also have Dalton — he of the one touchdown, six interceptions, 56.2 passer rating and 0-3 record in the postseason — to help lead them to the promised land. The Bengals remain committed to these types because … well, the reason is unclear. But they’re hoping it works.

“I feel Andy is the quarterback that can lead this team into the playoffs, through the playoffs, and win the ultimate game,” Lewis told the NFL Network’s Albert Breer last week. “When he does that, everyone will shut up. And that’s what every quarterback has to do. Unfortunately. That’s where they’re held.”

It almost too hilarious that Lewis, the man with the .514 winning percentage who has never so much as sniffed a playoff win, finds it to be unfortunate that quarterbacks are held to a standard which expects them to actually win games.

With a ton of money tied up in a quarterback whose replacement very likely could be found in the second round of a future NFL draft, winning will become that much harder for the Bengals going forward.

And if you’re looking at it from New England, you wouldn’t be wrong to react with a few chuckles. Again, they don’t get everything right down in Foxboro, but they sure have themselves an absurdly excellent situation with regard to their quarterback’s contract.

Read more from Michael Hurley by clicking here, or find him on Twitter @michaelFhurley.



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