Cincinnati Bengals owner Mike Brown said Andy Dalton will always have a "special place" in the franchise's history after he was released on Thursday.
The Bengals have moved in a different direction at quarterback after taking Joe Burrow with the first overall pick of last week's NFL Draft.
Attempts to trade Dalton did not come to fruition, so the team have opted to make him a free agent rather than play out the last year of his contract. The 32-year-old, who spent nine years with the Bengals, was slated to earn $17.7 million this season.
"Andy will always hold a special place with this franchise, and I know that he holds a special place in my heart," Brown said in a statement.
"This is a hard day for our club because we know and appreciate what a consummate professional Andy has always been. We respect and appreciate Andy, and we thank him."
The move almost certainly means Burrow will start Week 1 and ends suggestions the team could retain Dalton in a backup role.
Speculation has connected Dalton with the New England Patriots and Jacksonville Jaguars, as he joins former NFL MVP Cam Newton among the top signal callers available on the open market.
"I'm really happy for Andy. I think [the Bengals] did the right thing for him and he's got a chance to continue his career," former Bengals QB Ken Anderson added.
"I think it's the best thing for everybody. It's the Joe Burrow era now."
Dalton had a winning record as the Bengals' QB, going 70-61-2 in the regular season while throwing 204 touchdowns to 118 interceptions.
He holds Cincinnati's franchise record for passing touchdowns and his 87.5 passer rating is the highest by a Bengals quarterback with at least 25 starts with the team.
The 2011 second-round pick led the Bengals to the playoffs in each of his first five seasons but was unable to end the franchise's long wait for a playoff win, their last having come in 1990.
"If you had told me there was this quarterback in the second round from TCU that's going to the playoffs the first five years, I'd say sign me up. No Bengals quarterback ever did that," Anderson said.
Dalton's career peaked in 2015, when he led the AFC with a 106.3 passer rating and helped Cincinnati to a 12-4 record and an AFC North title. Both he and the Bengals began to decline thereafter, however.
Cincinnati have recorded four straight losing seasons, while Dalton was benched in favour of rookie Ryan Finley for three games during the Bengals' 2-14 campaign in 2019, a record which put them in position to select Burrow with the first overall pick.