New QB Andy Dalton says Bears assured him he’s their starter for 2021

That assurance indicates the team is done with its pursuit of Russell Wilson and others. Dalton almost certainly would’ve gone elsewhere if the Bears were still actively chasing quarterbacks.

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Dalton played nine years for the Bengals, then spent last season as the Cowboys’ backup.

The Bears are unmistakably clear on where they stand at quarterback, based both on what they told newcomer Andy Dalton and by signing him in the first place.

Dalton will open the 2021 as their starter. Whatever happens from there depends on how he plays, but the Bears appear to have accepted that he’s the best they’re going to get this offseason.

That factored significantly into Dalton’s decision to sign with them — he got a one-year, $10 million deal that could jump to $13 million with incentives — instead of the other teams he said were offering a starting job.

It was basically part of the negotiations at that point, and at 33, Dalton surely would’ve gone elsewhere if he believed the Bears were still actively pursuing Russell Wilson or anyone else on the trade market.

“That’s another reason why this is so attractive,” Dalton said Thursday. “You’ve got a chance to come in and be the starter from Day 1.”

When pressed specifically on whether general manager Ryan Pace and the Bears pledged their unwavering loyalty to him and won’t bring in someone else to compete for the job, Dalton said they did.

“They told me I was the starter,” he said. “That was one of the reasons why I wanted to come here. Every conversation I’ve had [with the Bears] has been that, so that’s the assurance that I’ve gotten.”

There’s plenty of other evidence to support the Bears saying that and meaning it.

They needed an answer from the Seahawks on Wilson before free agency began and they got one: There was no way they’d trade him, not even for the Bears’ extravagant offer of three first-round picks, a third and two starters. The fact that coach Pete Carroll reportedly was the one who vetoed it strongly suggests it won’t be revisited.

The Bears will almost certainly draft a quarterback next month, and there’s a very good chance they’ll trade up from No. 20 to make sure they can get one with the potential to carry the franchise. It’s highly expected, and Dalton is well aware of it. He even said he’d have “no problem” mentoring the kid.

If Dalton is a disaster, as Mike Glennon was in his four starts in 2017, of course the Bears will move on to their rookie. But that or an injury are the only scenarios in which Dalton loses what they promised him.

For his part, Dalton has never been a disaster. He’s never been a superstar, either, but the Bears are more than happy to have someone who is just a solid, league-average starter. Getting quarterback play that’s “OK” is a step up from the steaming pile of whatever you want to call Nick Foles’ and Mitch Trubisky’s performances.

Dalton is who the Bears should’ve chosen instead of Foles last year. They could’ve had him for next to nothing in a trade or when he became a free agent, but gave up a fourth-round pick for the right to give Foles a three-year, essentially fully guaranteed contract.

With Trubisky gone to the Bills, Foles was the only quarterback still under contract, and Dalton is indisputably an upgrade from him.

And the Bears won’t go into training camp with a slap fight of a quarterback competition and coach Matt Nagy saying he’ll wait until the morning of the opener to reveal his starter, then realizing how absurd that sounded and doubling back. They almost certainly won’t stumble through the season again by picking one quarterback at the beginning, then changing three weeks later and changing back by Thanksgiving.

That’s the new hope, at least. The old hope was to trade for Wilson and see if he could vault them into Super Bowl contention, but that’s gone. Now they’re betting that Dalton can simply keep them from being an embarrassment until their next quarterback is ready.

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