- Coley Harvey, ESPN Staff Writer
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Countless tweets from news sites and sports reporters referencing the announcement were either hashtagged #Bengals, or directed toward the team's @Bengals Twitter account by those eager to see a move that would bring the new free agent quarterback to Paul Brown Stadium. The hope those Twitter-savvy football observers shared was that Freeman would be brought in to either light a fire under current starting quarterback Andy Dalton ... or replace him.
Dalton has been in the spotlight the past five days as calls for his ouster have picked up steam since the Bengals' 17-6 loss at Cleveland. During the game, he passed for just 203 yards and had a season-low 29.7 QBR. He certainly has played worse games before, but when it came to this fan base, one that is eager to finally see its team live up to the lofty preseason expectations that preceded it, the last straw had been reached. It's either time for Dalton to sit, or time for him to leave, the most vocal Bengals fans have said since last Sunday.
Their anxiety has grown throughout the week, in part, because the Bengals are scheduled to face Future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady and the New England Patriots this Sunday. Even though Cincinnati has beaten the past four Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks it has faced -- Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger, Joe Flacco and Eli Manning -- the greater concern is that Brady and his revamped offense will prove to be too much for Dalton and company.
As I wrote just after the Bengals' loss Sunday, my belief is that Cincinnati can't give up on Dalton just yet. Yes, he's had some bad, but when he's been good, he's been really good. The problem is that he has yet to play at a consistent level. Many thought this would be the season he finally began to put it all together and performed close to near-perfection. Arguably his best start came in the season opener, when he completed 79 percent of his passes in the loss to Chicago. Maybe Sunday's game ought to be seen as a last chance of sorts, but obviously with Freeman available now, the Bengals would have to act now if they were planning on making a move. Aside from fan interest in it, there's no other reason to believe the team would entertain altering its quarterback plans at the present moment.
Dalton is familiar with all the chatter about him, but he's tuning it out. He said he doesn't read much that's written about him, good or bad.
"The biggest thing with social media these days is anybody can say whatever they want and have [no] consequences for it," Dalton said. "So you can't listen to all that stuff. You can't read into all that stuff, because honestly, they have no idea what went on."
He added that he believes he will adequately respond to last week's performance.
"Ever since I have been playing the game, when things haven't gone right, I feel like I've bounced back pretty quickly, and bounced back and done some really good things," Dalton said. "I expect that going into this week."
If the Bengals were to decide on making a quarterback switch, below are a few of the statistics they would consider while seeing if signing Freeman was worth it. There are pluses and minuses:
CINCINNATI -- The news on Josh Freeman's release from Tampa Bay, broken by ESPN's Adam Schefter, had barely been out five minutes before the Freeman-to-Cincinnati charge began on social media.