Now, the 11-year veteran has touched down in New Orleans with the realization that he's there to support incumbent starter Jameis Winston in any way that he can.
Having signed a one-year deal with the Saints on Tuesday to back up Winston, Dalton is bound for his fourth team in as many seasons and reserved to being QB2 and everything that goes with it.
"This is his thing, and I'm here to help him out in any way that I can," Dalton said Thursday in his introductory news conference with the Saints. "So, I'm excited to work with him, excited to be in the same room, and see everything I can do to help him out to make him the best player he can be."
Prior to Dalton's signing, the Saints re-signed Winston to a two-year deal.
In the 2021 offseason, Winston emerged from a QB battle with Taysom Hill as the successor to the retired Drew Brees. By season's end, however, Winston was one of four quarterbacks who had started for an injury-riddled Saints squad. As fate would have it, Winston is back and so too are second-year QB Ian Book and Hill, who also registered 2021 starts. Hill, the team's resident Swiss army knife, is slotted to get some work at tight end, but the only roster change to the team's quarterback room is the departure of Trevor Siemian and the entrance of Dalton. Fatefully enough, Siemian landed in Chicago as the Bears' new backup and Dalton has taken his spot in NOLA.
Having started 148 games over 11 seasons with the Bengals, Cowboys and Bears, Dalton is a three-time Pro Bowler who isn't exactly used to being a backup. Still, he was slated as such in Dallas during the 2020 season and was hardly the undisputed starter during a turbulent 2021 campaign in Chicago.
Likely folly to say Dalton's relishing his new role, he's getting more comfortable with it.
"I think for me, obviously I've played my whole career, and even a couple years ago when I was in Dallas, with the unfortunate injury that Dak had, I was able to come in," Dalton said. "And then going into last year, was the starter until I got hurt, and then Justin took over. But how it's been, and where I'm at, I'm here to help and serve and do everything I can just to help the team and to help the quarterback room, and to make us the best offense that we can be, so whatever role that is, I'm here for it."
Dalton, 34, has started at least six games in every season of his career regardless of his spot on the depth chart ahead of the season opener. The Saints haven't had a quarterback start every regular-season game since Brees in 2017 and the 28-year-old Winston is coming off an ACL tear. Hence, history is on the side of the "Red Rifle" getting a start or two.
For now, though, he's content and comfortable being the Saints' No. 2 and providing ample knowledge from more than a decade in the league.
"I feel like my experience will bring a lot," Dalton said.