Dalton, who signed a two-year, $11 million contract ahead of the 2023 NFL Draft, is set to stay in Carolina for the time being. Despite all signs pointing to the Panthers making rookie quarterback and No. 1 overall pick Bryce Young their starter, Dalton still feels like he has a lot to give going into his 13th season.
"I view myself as a starter in this league; I don't think there are 32 guys better than me," Dalton told Fort Worth Star-Telegram in a recent phone interview. "But this is the situation I am in, and I understand that. As soon as I don't think I'm one of the best 32, or a little lower, I'll be watching football on TV."
It's safe to assume Dalton will be the backup to Young, but instead of allowing that to diminish his mentality, the 35-year-old is focused on continuing to improve his skillset, especially with a familiar face on the coaching staff.
"I am in a really, really good situation here; (head coach) Frank Reich played til he was 38. He was a career backup," Dalton said. "He understands the continuity you want in a (quarterback) room. (Panthers quarterbacks coach) Josh McCown played until he was 40. Josh was my friend for the last 10 years, and now he's my coach."
In 2022, Dalton played and started in 14 games for the New Orleans Saints, throwing for 2,871 yards with a 66.7 completion percentage while scoring 18 touchdowns. Dalton also only threw nine interceptions, which was fewer than Kirk Cousins, Aaron Rodgers, Patrick Mahomes and Joe Burrow.
Dalton proved he can make plays when necessary, but with the Saints ending the season with a losing 7-10 record and subsequently moving on to Derek Carr in free agency, the writing was on the wall for Dalton's time in the Big Easy.
"I look back at the last couple of years and some of the situations didn't turn out the way I would have liked," Dalton said. "Last year, I felt personally I felt I played good football, but we didn't win as many games and that is the most important thing. I have confidence in who I am as a player. Not a lot of people can say, 'This is Year 13 in the NFL.' I feel good about where I am. It's fun to be in this position, to help the next generation of quarterbacks."
Although Dalton has not led an NFL team to a winning record since the 2015 season, he still clearly has a hunger to play -- and win. Should Young struggle, Dalton will be waiting in the wings, ready to take any opportunity to show he still has what it takes to be a starting-caliber signal-caller in this league.