The future of Cincinnati Bengals backup quarterback AJ McCarron remains unclear. He is hoping to gain some clarity in about a month’s time, when an arbitrator is expected to rule on a grievance that he filed against the team related to his status in free agency. If ruled in his favor, he will hit the open market.
But that almost didn’t matter, at least when it comes to being given a chance at being a starting quarterback. A trade was in place for the Bengals to send him to the Cleveland Browns for a second-round pick just on the cusp of the trade deadline during this past season.
The trade was botched. And so he continued to sit behind Andy Dalton, as he has done for most of the past four years, outside of a brief stint in 2015 while Dalton was injured and he was given the opportunity to log playing time.
During a recent interview, McCarron talked about that botched trade. “When you’re a competitor, you always want to play. I went through it myself during my freshman year at Alabama. I remember being frustrated and after practice one day, I told my dad I was going to transfer”.
He added, “I was going to go to Ole Miss. But then we sat down and talked about it, and I decided to stay. Obviously, that all worked out for the best”.
In the NFL, he doesn’t have the opportunity to transfer if he wants to while he is under contract. Technically, at the moment, he remains in the final year of his four-year rookie deal. But if his grievance is resolved in his favor, he will be deemed an unrestricted free agent.
During his rookie year, McCarron spent the majority of the season on the non-football injury list with shoulder soreness. He was not activated until late December, for just three games, meaning that he was not allowed to accrue a season of experience.
The quarterback and the NFLPA on his behalf contend that he was healthy enough to play before that time, which would have been enough to accrue a season. The organization, naturally, differs. This is a unique circumstance that has the potential to set a future precedent in such cases.
The Bengals would certainly welcome the opportunity to have McCarron under contract for one more season under the terms of his rookie contract. But they were also welcoming of getting something in return for him via trade. They got their part of the late-developing trade done, but it was botched by the Browns.
“As a competitor, I wanted that opportunity, just to be able to showcase and help a team win ball games”, he said. “I think I would have had some success playing for Hue. I would have loved the opportunity to go up there and get them a win, more than one win. As a competitor, that’s all you can ask for”.
Hue, of course, is Hue Jackson, who was the Bengals’ offensive coordinator during McCarron’s first two seasons, including the end of the 2015 season when he got the bulk of his playing time. Jackson is currently the Browns’ head coach, a post he has held for the past two seasons.