You don’t have to sell the local TCU constituency on the net football worth of quarterback Andy Dalton.How much is a Rose Bowl trophy worth to a football program and a university that were yearning for attention?Andy Dalton helped the TCU Horned Frogs to earn that.The dismay coming from Cincinnati this week, therefore, has been disarming. We see 33 touchdown passes last season as the Bengals’ No. 1 quarterback and three straight seasons of postseason appearances. And NFL fans in Cincinnati only seem to see three straight years of playoff losses.Remind you of anyone?Before you go any further, let’s not forget the ages. Tony Romo is 34 years old and trying to come back from two back surgeries. Dalton is 26.In the NFL, however, they like to throw around total contract amounts like fourth-quarter interceptions. Hence, the jaw dropping Monday when Dalton’s new deal was announced at six years and $115 million.I confess to being guilty in the past of overreacting the same way. Football isn’t baseball, where contract numbers are promissory notes.In the NFL, contracts are fluffed with extra years as a way to spreading a player’s impact on the salary cap. Thus, the only two true figures in contract announcements are the actual guaranteed money and the charge against the salary cap in any given year.Andy’s announced $115 million contract, therefore, is only about $17 million guaranteed. And why should anyone in Cincinnati be alarmed by paying that to a still-improving young quarterback who’s already taken the franchise to the playoffs three years in a row?There are all sorts of ways to solve the NFL salary cap puzzle. San Francisco secured Colin Kaepernick’s services with a back-loaded deal that included $61 million guaranteed. New Orleans’ Drew Brees, by comparison, who’s already won a Super Bowl and six playoff games for the Saints, has $60.5 guaranteed on his deal.Romo is fourth in the league with $55 million guaranteed. Owner Jerry Jones is quick to tell you that Tony is worth every penny and surgery stitch, and he may eventually be. But when the quarterback’s annual salary cap charge limits the team’s ability to fill defensive holes in free agency, it shackles the franchise.Owner Jones, in effect, is paying Romo for what he feels are playoff victories-to-come. The Bengals, on the other hand, have structured Dalton’s contract in a way that both sides will benefit if he and the team are successful. Otherwise, they will simply cut him. It’s the NFL way.Since Dalton isn’t likely to be released anytime soon, the new Richest Redhead in Fort Worth will have pocketed around $25 million over the next two seasons. That will go a long way if Andy is still the humble and frugal Frog he was in his TCU days.He remains intelligent, if not elusive. He is an experienced pocket passer, as opposed to the NFL’s new breed that will have to learn to operate there. And you won’t see Dalton in any bar fights or partying with that other Ohio quarterback.It was a solid deal, in other words, all Bengals fans’ growls to the contrary. Dalton’s new deal firmly establishes him not with the Peyton Mannings and Aaron Rodgerses of the world, but rather with the second tier of up-and-comers — which is exactly where he belongs, for now.Three straight years of postseason games? Wow. Imagine what Owner Jones would pay for that.
Gil LeBreton, 817-390-7697 Twitter: @gilebreton