A.J. McCarron

Raiders To Acquire QB A.J. McCarron

The Raiders will acquire quarterback A.J. McCarron from the Bills, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com. Buffalo will receive a fifth-round pick, per Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link). The Bills signed McCarron to compete for their starting job this spring, but he quickly fell behind both Josh Allen and Nathan Peterman.

Raiders coach Jon Gruden made clear that the team was in the market for a veteran backup quarterback and that they weren’t happy with the performances of returning players Connor Cook and E.J. Manuel. It’s unclear what the compensation is at this point, but it’s likely nothing more than a late round pick.

The Raiders haven’t announced all their cuts yet, but this means that at least one of Cook or Manuel will be sent packing, if not both. McCarron developed a reputation as one of the league’s better backups while holding Andy Dalton’s clipboard the past few seasons.

He was expected to have opportunities to start this offseason, but he was greeted with a quiet market in free agency. He didn’t draw much interest outside of Buffalo, and ended up signing a two-year deal there. The Bills will now move forward with Allen and Peterman, although they haven’t announced who will start between the two.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AJ McCarron Didn’t Fracture Collarbone

AJ McCarron‘s injury was not as serious as originally thought. ESPN’s Adam Schefter tweets that the Bills quarterback did not suffer a fracture in his collarbone, as was reported following the team’s preseason game on Friday. While McCarron was expected to miss “several weeks,” NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport tweets that the quarterback is now day-to-day. McCarron is expected to return to practice once his shoulder pain subsides.

This is surely welcome news to the Bills, who inked the quarterback to a two-year, $8.1MM deal this offseason. However, the team has already decided to roll with first-rounder Josh Allen as their starter for this weekend’s game against the Bengals (Twitter link). The rookie quarterback has the most passing attempts through Buffalo’s first two games, completing 18 of his 32 passes for 176 yards and two scores. For comparison’s sake, McCarron has completed 10-of-16 for 128 yards and no touchdowns, while Nathan Peterman has gone 17-of-20 for 231 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception.

McCarron’s only relevant NFL work came as a replacement to an injured Andy Dalton during the 2015 campaign. The former Alabama star had been in the rumor mill through much of his tenure in Cincinnati, including a reported trade to the Browns that ultimately fell through. In 11 career games (three starts), the 27-year-old has completed 64.7-percent of his passes for 920 yards, six touchdowns, and two interceptions. He also started the Bengals’ 2015 playoff loss to the Steelers, throwing a touchdown and a pick.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bills Notes: Quarterbacks, Williams, O’Leary

Running back Marcus Murphy continues to improve his chances of making the Bills’ 53-man roster. The 2015 seventh-round had a brief cameo with Buffalo last season, but he had showed some intriguing flashes during his tenure with the Saints. His talents have been on display during the preseason, as he’s compiled 74 yards and one touchdown in 11 carries (he’s also hauled in four catches).

“I just want to make a play,” Murphy told Branson Wright of Cleveland.com. “Whenever an opportunity is given, I just want to make the most of it. It doesn’t matter if it’s being a running back, punt returner or kick returner. I just want to be a playmaker whenever I get the chance.”

“I appreciate the coaching staff giving me an opportunity. I want to show them that they can trust me to make a play and show that I’m able to execute whenever they need me to.”

Jay Skurski of the Buffalo News is ready to give Murphy a spot on the opening-day roster, and the writer cites the struggles of current number-three running back Travaris Cadet. Otherwise, Murphy would be competing with Taiwan Jones for a role behind LeSean McCoy and Chris Ivory.

Let’s take a look at some more notes out of Buffalo…

  • While Skurski is willing to hand Murphy a roster spot, he wonders if tight end Nick O’Leary is on the roster bubble. While the 25-year-old did finish last night’s preseason win over the Browns with a team-leading four catches for 70 yards and one touchdown, he didn’t end up taking the field until the second half. If the former sixth-rounder has any hopes of making the Bills, he’ll have to beat out Jason Croom, Logan Thomas and Khari Lee for backup reps behind Charles Clay. O’Leary finished last season with 22 receptions for 322 yards and two touchdowns in 15 games (five starts).
  • Quarterback A.J. McCarron suffered a hairline fracture in his collarbone during last night’s preseason game. NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport tweets that the signal-caller will end up missing “several weeks,” but a definitive timetable hasn’t been set. Meanwhile, ESPN’s Mike Rodak isn’t ready to hand the starting quarterback gig to first-rounder Josh Allen. The reporter notes (on Twitter) that head coach Sean McDermott has a high opinion of backup Nathan Peterman, and McCarron’s injury shouldn’t force the coach to “stray from his “calculated” plan about Allen.” Rodak believes the two healthy quarterbacks will split reps during next weekend’s game against the Bengals, although he also wonders if the team may end up adding another quarterback to the roster.
  • Defensive lineman Kyle Williams went down with a knee injury during last night’s game, but Rapoport tweets that the Pro Bowler’s ACL wasn’t injured. If the MRI confirms that prognosis, the 35-year-old “could return this season.” That still sounds like a rather grim outlook for the defensive tackle, but the MRI will likely provide specific details on the severity of the injury. The five-time Pro Bowler has spent his entire 12-year career with Buffalo, and he finished last season with 41 tackles and three sacks. If he is indeed forced to miss time, the Bills will likely turn to Harrison Phillips or Adolphus Washington for a bigger role.

A.J. McCarron Fractures Collarbone

A.J. McCarron suffered an injury during his first preseason start with the Bills, and it appears likely it will affect the franchise’s quarterback plans going forward. The free agent addition suffered a hairline fracture in his collarbone, Vic Carucci of the Buffalo News reports (on Twitter).

McCarron started over Nathan Peterman on Friday night in Cleveland but may have to cede the reins to the younger passer now. Peterman started the Bills’ first preseason game, but McCarron represents the bigger investment, having signed a two-year, $8.1MM deal this offseason. He was viewed as the stopgap quarterback that will provide the bridge to Josh Allen.

Allen figures to see more time as a result of McCarron’s setback, and although the Wyoming product was not viewed as a ready-made NFL signal-caller, his NFL audition could come sooner than previously expected if McCarron misses extensive time.

McCarron’s only relevant NFL work came because of a 2015 Andy Dalton injury, and after a trade to the Browns fell through at the last minute last year, a setback in Cleveland ten months later may deny him a chance at a surefire starting role. Peterman has one game of NFL starting experience, but that start turned out to be one of the worst in NFL history. But he may be the next man up.

Brandon Beane On Bills’ QB Decision

Second-year Bills GM Brandon’s Beane went through a lot to trade up and land Josh Allen, making two deals — with the Bengals and Buccaneers — to vault the Bills into that No. 7 spot.

When asked about his first-round quarterback’s chances of earning earlier-than-expected playing time, Beane said it could come down to how he looks in the Bills’ first preseason game.

I think you give everybody the fair amount of reps now. Right now we’re going with Nathan (Peterman) and A.J. (McCarron) with the majority of the ones and twos, but giving Josh at least a period a day – at least,” Beane said, via John Kryk of the Toronto Sun. “And we’ll do that through the first preseason game, and then we’ll adjust from there and decide, Are we going to keep it the same? Are we going to give him more reps? Or are we going to give him less? Everything is earned here.”

Buffalo snapped major North American sports’ longest playoff drought last season by booking the AFC’s No. 6 seed in dramatic fashion, and that progress may impact the team’s quarterback decision.

Although the Bills’ offense will look remarkably different, given that Tyrod Taylor and three key offensive linemen are out of the picture, last year’s work may prompt the GM and coaching staff to go with one of the veteran signal-callers while the Wyoming-produced prodigy observes to start the season.

Some people say, ‘Hey, don’t play a rookie at all.’ And some people say go ahead and play him no matter what,” Beane said. “And I think the thing is you’ve got to be fair to the other – when you get your 53-man roster – the other 52 players. Because everybody wants to win now, including Sean (McDermott) and I. And so (the players) see the same practice. They watch the same practices; they’ll watch the same preseason games. And if you’re not putting the best guy out there I think they’re going to lose their respect for you.”

Beane said he will be involved in the decision, along with McDermott and new OC Brian Daboll. Ownership will not steer the team one way or another in this matter, per Beane. Daboll last served as an NFL coordinator for the 2012 Chiefs, who went 2-14, but he served as national champion Alabama’s OC last season.

It will be a group decision,” Beane said. “There’s Sean and I. We’ll obviously talk. There’s Brian Daboll. He’ll be involved. He knows more than everybody who’s hitting everything. He’s in every meeting with these quarterbacks. It’s his offense.

… We’ll talk to (owners Terry and Kim Pegula) about the evaluation process. ‘Hey, this is what A.J. did well in Game 1 … this is what he’s got to improve on.’ Or, ‘This is what Josh did what, and what he’s got to improve on.’ And same with Nathan. So, yeah, we’ll definitely talk.”

Despite his five-interception disaster in Los Angeles last season, Peterman showed well in minicamp. McCarron would seemingly be the best bet for veteran stability, but Allen’s displayed improvement in training camp. Allen was viewed as a longer project than peers Josh Rosen or Sam Darnold coming into the draft.

(Allen) was behind, being in the draft, whereas both A.J. and Nate were already learning Brian Daboll’s system a month-plus before Josh got there,” Beane told Kryk regarding Allen’s summer progression. “But definitely, by the time we left there in June he was mentally there. Now it’s just catching him up physically, knowing all the plays – it’s a big playbook – and getting the guys lined up. But he has done a great job to this point.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

East Notes: Allen, Cooks, Eagles

Bills fans are anxiously looking forward to the inevitable ascension of Josh Allen, and Vic Carucci of the Buffalo News takes a look at the team’s quarterback competition with training camp fast approaching. A.J. McCarron and Nathan Peterman know that, if either of them start the season under center — and McCarron is generally seen as the favorite to open the year as the starting signal-caller — they would just be keeping the seat warm for Allen. Carucci notes that Allen’s natural talent was on full display throughout spring practices, and he adds that all three competitors have developed a friendship during their time together. The Buffalo News scribe examines each player’s case to start on Week 1, and he notably does not rule out any possibility at this juncture.

Now let’s take a look at a few more notes from the league’s east divisions:

  • Former Patriots receiver Brandin Cooks just inked a massive extension with the Rams, and Mike Reiss of ESPN.com says New England had a pretty good idea that Cooks, who was scheduled for unrestricted free agency at the end of the 2018 season, was going to get that kind of money given the robust state of the wide receiver market. However, the Patriots just did not value him that highly and were approaching this year as though it would be Cooks’ last in Foxborough. So, when presented with the opportunity to get a first-round pick for him this offseason, New England pounced.
  • Earlier today, the Patriots signed No. 31 overall pick Sony Michel.
  • Ryan Dunleavy of NJ.com takes a look at 10 Giants who are in danger of being cut because of their salaries, the status of their position groups, or some combination thereof. Dunleavy’s list is headlined by guard John Jerry and defensive end Kerry Wynn.
  • Eagles executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman has made more trades than any other general manager since 2010, per Eliot Shorr-Parks of NJ.com, who believes that Roseman will make more trades in the coming weeks. Shorr-Parks puts a potential return on each player on the roster, and he notes that Roseman would likely be open to moving Nick Foles and Brandon Graham, though it would take at least a first-round pick to acquire Foles and a third-rounder to land Graham.
  • In a separate piece, Shorr-Parks offers his take on the locks, longshots, and bubble players on the Eagles‘ roster as it currently stands. As Shorr-Parks has indicated previouslyRonald Darby is another trade candidate if De’vante Bausby continues to play well in training camp.

Poll: Which Team Best Addressed QB Spot This Offseason?

This turned out to be an important year for quarterback acquisitions. Many teams’ short- and long-term futures will depend heavily on the players they added over the past two months.

A fourth of the NFL made major investments in outside talent at the quarterback position this offseason. Which team did you think is in the best position after all the dominoes fell?

Three teams acquired their unquestioned starters via trade or free agency. The Redskins’ trade for Alex Smith ensured they were not going to pick a quarterback in the draft. As did the Vikings’ subsequent Kirk Cousins agreement. The Broncos entered the draft as a borderline QB destination, but John Elway valued Bradley Chubb more than Josh Allen or Josh Rosen, eschewing a Bills offer that would have given his team extra first- and second-round picks. So, Case Keenum is going to be Denver’s starter.

Four of the five teams that used first-round picks on quarterbacks made sure to add bridge-type solutions, with the Browns moving first to get Tyrod Taylor. The Jets and Cardinals then respectively proceeded to bring in Josh McCown, Teddy Bridgewater, Sam Bradford and Mike Glennon. And the Bills made the final stopgap addition in A.J. McCarron. But these players, for the most part, are 2018 placeholders — at best.

Was Baker Mayfield worth the No. 1 overall pick? Or did the Browns make what could turn out to be the costliest of their spree of modern quarterback misjudgments last month? Several Cleveland executives independently rated Mayfield as the draft’s premier passer, going against the grain of the many teams that viewed Sam Darnold as this year’s top passing prospect. The Jets appear to have appreciated this bold move, and Darnold is almost certainly going to see extensive time in 2018. PFR readers believe he will.

The Bills worked the phones relentlessly in an effort to install Allen behind McCarron, and the Cardinals reportedly had the Wyoming prodigy rated as their top QB as well. But Allen could need extensive seasoning, and as of now, a returning playoff team has a fifth-year player with 133 career pass attempts set to open the season and possibly close it as the starter.

Conversely, the player the Cardinals invested in was tabbed by many draft experts as the readiest pro. And Bradford being in front of Rosen for 16 games may be asking a lot from the injury-prone veteran. The Ravens are already planning Jackson packages, and although the player whom some teams wanted to work out as a wide receiver may need a season to develop, this draft’s most dominant college QB resides in Baltimore behind Joe Flacco.

Armed with one of the league’s most talented rosters, Minnesota had the most obvious case to pursue a veteran. And the Vikings made history by authorizing a $28MM-AAV fully guaranteed deal for the soon-to-be 30-year-old Cousins, who may be the safest option among all of these players. But he’s now the league’s second-highest-paid passer and tethered to the Vikings through 2020. Smith is coming off his best NFL season, but his Chiefs teams disappointed in two home playoff opportunities. Washington could also be much further away from contention than Minnesota, and the Redskins have now brought in quarterback who for all the stability he offers is four years older.

It’s debatable the Broncos’ contention window could still be open, with many of their core Super Bowl 50 performers still on the team and having played the past two seasons without much help at quarterback. But a 5-11 team armed with only its second top-five pick since 1992 passing on two coveted QB prospects to pursue the 30-year-old Keenum, a late-blooming talent or a player who benefited from better circumstances, could also be classified as a bold choice as Rosen and Allen’s careers unfold. The Broncos only committed to Keenum for two years and are paying Football Outsiders’ No. 4 2017 DYAR passer $10MM less per year than Cousins commanded.

So, with all things considered, which of these franchises is best set up after this offseason? Did one of the teams that spent a first-round pick on a QB ensure a decade and then some of stability and promise? Or did the teams that went strictly for vets get this right? Vote in PFR’s latest poll and weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section!

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bills Notes: McCarron, Draft, Free Agency

After trading Tyrod Taylor to the Browns before free agency opened, the Bills suddenly had a need for a starting quarterback. They filled that void with Bengals backup A.J. McCarron, who was among the last signal-callers remaining after the deals of Case Keenum, Kirk Cousins and Teddy Bridgewater.

Though McCarron is a relative unknown as a starter, the MMQB’s Albert Breer believes it was a great deal for the Bills (via Twitter). Breer notes that McCarron’s contract — $5MM base salary in 2018 with $2MM in incentives — helps save the team between $9-11MM. Not only did the team save considerable coin, it also picked up the No. 65 pick, which can be used to move up in the NFL Draft in search of the team’s quarterback of the future.

It’s hard to disagree with Breer. The team and Taylor were on the outs, and the fact that the team landed a presumably solid starter, save money and acquire draft capital in the process can only be viewed as a win.

Here’s more with the Bills:

Bills Notes post (bulleted)

  • Bills general manager Brandon Beane said they are now in the range of Top 15 prospects, and “it’s not necessarily quarterback,” ESPN’s Mike Rodak tweets. Though the team could definitely stand to upgrade at multiple positions, it’s had to see the team passing on one of the top quarterbacks should they fall.
  • With all the team’s assets, the general consensus is that the team will attempt to move up in the draft. That fact is not lost on Beane, who said via WKBW’s Joe Buscaglia (Twitter link): “Everybody assumes that we’re going to go higher [in the draft]… I don’t know that yet.” It’s not surprising that he doesn’t know that yet, seeing how the draft is still over a month away. But all the signs still point to some kind of move.
  • One thing is for sure, the team will not be adding many more impact free agents. From Rodak (via Twitter), Beane said, “We’re very low on money. We can do some lower-level things, but nothing that’s going to hit the ticker.” If they want impact players, the Bills will more than likely have to address it in April.

Contract Details: McCarron, Green, Jones, Bushrod, Davis

Let’s take a look at the details from the latest contracts signed in the NFL, with all links going to Twitter unless otherwise noted:

  • A.J. McCarron, QB (Bills): Two years, $10MM. $3MM in 2018, $7MM in 2019. $1.1MM of ’19 salary guaranteed for injury. 2019 salary fully guaranteed on Day 5 of 2019 league year. Bills would incur $2MM dead-money charge by cutting McCarron after one season (via Mike Rodak of ESPN.com).
  • DaQuan Jones, DE (Titans): Three years, $21MM, $14MM fully guaranteed at signing. $6MM base salary for 2019 fully guaranteed (per Caplan).
  • Virgil Green, TE (Chargers): Three years, $8.6MM, $5.9MM fully guaranteed, which covers the first two years of this deal (per Adam Caplan of ESPN.com, on Twitter).
  • Cody Davis, S (Jaguars): Two years, $5MM, $2.5MM fully guaranteed. Deal contains option bonus due 22 days before the start of the 2019 league year (via Caplan).
  • Jermon Bushrod, OL (Saints): One-year deal (via Herbie Teope of NOLA.com)

Bills To Sign A.J. McCarron

The Bills have signed A.J. McCarron, per a team announcement. It’s a two-year deal for the former Bengals signal caller. ProFootballTalk.com reports (via Twitter) that it’s a two-year deal worth $10MM, with $6.5MM “upside based on playing time.”

McCarron, for now, projects as the Bills’ new starting quarterback following the trade of Tyrod Taylor to the Browns. The 27-year-old only started three career games playing behind Andy Dalton in Cincinnati, but the quarterback certainly looked capable during his time on the field.

In 11 career games, McCarron has completed 64.7-percent of his passes for 920 yards, six touchdowns, and two interceptions. During his brief starting stint in 2015, the quarterback also compiled 31 rushing yards on 14 carries. That season, McCarron started the Bengals’ playoff loss to the Steelers, throwing for 212 yards, one touchdown, and one pick.

Despite his starting inexperience, McCarron was still one of the top-ranked quarterbacks available in free agency. The Broncos and Cardinals had previously been connected to the former fifth-rounder, but both of those teams ultimately added other players at the position. McCarron was ranked 12th in our list of the top-50 free agents, and he was listed fourth in our positional rankings. Earlier today, Zach Links ranked him as the sixth-best remaining free agent.

The Bills presumably signed McCarron as their starting quarterback next season. Other than the free agent addition, Buffalo is rostering Nathan Peterman.

[RELATED: Bills Depth Chart]

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.