A.J. McCarron To Be Unrestricted Free Agent

Quarterback A.J. McCarron has won his grievance against the Bengals, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). He’ll be an unrestricted free agent this offseason and finally get his opportunity to be a starting quarterback. A.J. McCarron (Vertical)

McCarron has not seen a lot of playing time behind Andy Dalton, but he has impressed in a limited sample. In the final four games of 2015, when Dalton was out with an injury, he passed for 832 yards and six touchdowns against just two interceptions.

Last year, the Bengals were able to keep McCarron at a very modest $735K cap number. Had they been able to tag him as a restricted free agent with the first-round tender, they would have been able to either retain him for about $4MM or acquire a first-round pick from the team signing him. Instead, McCarron will hit free agency completely unfettered, making a return to the Bengals unlikely. Already, head coach Marvin Lewis has dismissed the idea of moving on from Dalton as the team’s starter this season and the Bengals can’t afford to give McCarron starter-type money.

In addition to winning UFA status, McCarron will also collect on lost salary from the 2014 season, with interest (Twitter link via Rapoport). In that season, McCarron was placed on the NFI list due to a shoulder injury.

This year’s unrestricted free agent QB class was already shaping up to be one of the best in recent memory and the addition of McCarron makes it even stronger. Kirk Cousins is the unanimous top draw, but Vikings QBs Case Keenum, Sam Bradford, and Teddy Bridgewater are also scheduled to reach the open market in March. Technically speaking, Saints QB Drew Brees is also a free agent, but he is widely expected to re-sign with the club before things open up next month.

Beyond those free agents, there’s also likely trade candidate Tyrod Taylor and a handful of intriguing QB prospects in this year’s draft. Teams with uncertainty under center like the Jets, Broncos, Browns, and Cardinals couldn’t ask for more in the way of options.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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29 comments on “A.J. McCarron To Be Unrestricted Free Agent

  1. Thronson5

    Good for him! Happy he will get his shot at starting. I’d put money on it the Browns sign this guy, draft Barkley at 1 and take another qb somewhere in the draft Incase he doesn’t work out in and need to turn to someone else in a year or two.

    • Michael Chaney

      Honestly as much as the Browns (or Hue Jackson) seem to like McCarron, I don’t think that would preclude them from taking a quarterback at 1 if there’s one they really like.

      Especially if the guy they really like ends up being Josh Allen; he’ll more than likely need a few years to develop anyway, and I view McCarron as more of a young bridge QB with a little upside than a definite franchise guy.

      • padam

        Question… Would he sign with them knowing they’d still (or possibly) draft his successor? He’s played the backup role long enough to want a starting role with someone without looking over his shoulder.

        • Thronson5

          Well free agency stars before the draft so do they have to tell him their plans for the draft? I don’t think so. If I was the Browns I’d do it. Sign him, draft Barkley at 1 and a qb at 4 and he can’t do anything about it.

          • padam

            Agreed, however he doesn’t have to sign before the draft, either. I’m just wondering if he’s be willing to sign with them with such an unknown.

        • bucketheadsdad

          I think they’re a heck of alot smarter than they used to be. :)

        • Michael Chaney

          We disagree a lot but it doesn’t always happen that way hahaha

  2. Braves Homer

    Oh man I can’t wait til Free agency this year, it’ll be interesting to see where all these capable QBs end up. Plus some pretty good WRs and RBs hitting the market too…should be good

  3. Thronson5

    I agree. I think he’s a young bridge QB. But I also think the Browns can get a an at 4 and get that top RB at 1 if they sign this guy. Don’t risk letting the another team get that RB.

  4. hill

    Brett Hundley is there for the taking.

    Conditional 7th Rounder is all we ask.

  5. padam

    If Cousins isn’t available and the targeted QB’s in the draft are taken, I can see the Jets rolling the dice on him and using their pick on a defensive back or a needed position.

  6. jb19

    Browns are drafting a QB number 1 overall if they don’t sign Cousins (and I don’t think they will sign Cousins)… I’m not convinced the Browns are going to sign McCarron, or be interested in him only because Hue likes him. If McCarron wants to start, he may have the opportunity in Cleveland, but no way in hell do the browns pass on a QB #1 overall bc they signed AJ McCarron. Same goes for Sam Bradford, Tyrod Taylor, etc. Browns draft qb #1, Barkley at #4, if available, if not Fitzpatrick. From there CB or RB (whatever they don’t get at 4) at 33.

    • Bransonreynolds

      Yeah they can if they want to pay him 20mil. My guess is he ends up in Arizona

  7. Kolukonu

    I’d love for the Jags to take a flyer on him. We have suffered under Bortles for long enough. Unfortunately, it looks like the front office is going to continue with that nightmare under center.

  8. Realtexan

    Remember guys Denver is in the mix to. Just thought I would throw that out there. And also Houston and Dallas are also looking for vet type backups also.

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