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Is a trade in the cards for the Bengals?

Cincinnati certainly has the pieces to make something work.

Baltimore Ravens v Cincinnati Bengals
Kevin Minter
Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images

The NFL trade deadline is only a couple of weeks away, and the Cincinnati Bengals have several players who could be potential trade chips.

Rumors have abounded for months concerning potential trades involving quarterback A.J. McCarron. But any trade of McCarron would leave the Bengals without a healthy backup quarterback. Can anyone say Colin Kaepernick?

Jeremy Hill has been the subject of trade rumors for almost as long as McCarron. And the Bengals boast a pretty good cornerback who is not getting a lot of playing time in KeiVarae Russell, a third-round selection of the Kansas City Chiefs who is languishing behind a quartet of first-round selections in Adam Jones, Dre Kirkpatrick, Darqueze Dennard and William Jackson III.

Finally, offseason acquisition Kevin Minter, the inside linebacker Pro Football Focus named 25th best in the NFL in 2016, has seen very little time on the field for the Bengals, and he could be the answer for several linebacker-hungry teams.

OK. The Bengals have some players who could potentially bring some value on the open market. But are there any teams out there who need what the Bengals have?

Several teams are in desperate need of a quarterback. According to ESPN, San Francisco quarterback Brian Hoyer is one of the worst starting quarterbacks in the NFL with a total rating of 30.3 (Deshaun Watson is the leader at 80.7). Trevor Siemian of the Denver Broncos comes in at 39.6.

A plethora of injuries this weekend has opened up even more possibilities, with by far the most devastating of those injuries being Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who may be lost for the season with a broken collarbone.

Washington cornerback Bashaud Breeland injured his knee and is also set to undergo an MRI. Carolina running back Fozzy Whittaker injured his right ankle Thursday and was last seen in a walking boot.

Linebacker Luke Kuechly is once again in concussion protocol with the Carolina Panthers. Kuechly missed six games last year with a concussion and had suffered at least two in the past two years.

If the Bengals are looking for a quality offensive lineman, in addition to high draft picks, in exchange for McCarron, the only place to go is San Francisco, which has made it clear that every player on its roster is available for the right price. Not only would McCarron provide an instant upgrade at the quarterback position, but the 49ers also have a top-tier offensive lineman they may be willing to part with.

Joe Staley was a first-round selection of the 49ers in the 2007 NFL Draft and has been one of the best left tackles in football during this decade. He made the Pro Bowl every year from 2011 through 2015, during which time he played in all 16 games for San Francisco. On the downside, Staley, who is 33-years old, missed the last three games of the 2016 season with a hamstring injury and has battled several small injuries this year.

Staley’s price would be significant, with a salary of $4.8 million over the next two season, along with a cap hit of $7.7 million over that same period of time. But the Bengals were planning to pay Tyler Eifert even more than that sum before his latest injury, and now have the additional cap space to make it work.

Green Bay is dealing with significant injuries along its offensive line, having lost tackles Bryan Bulaga and David Bakhtiari for a period of time, so any trade with the Packers would not involve the return of an offensive tackle.

But the Packers’ overwhelming need for help at quarterback is clear, with their season hanging in the balance after the loss of Rodgers. The Bengals could certainly expect to receive at least a second-round pick in next year’s draft in exchange for McCarron, if not a first.

As desperate as the Packers are at quarterback, Carolina may be equally as desperate for linebacker help, considering Kuechly’s history of concussions. Minter would be a perfect fit in the Panthers’ 4-3 front, and Hill could be just the piece to soften the blow of any potential loss of Whittaker. Of course, the return would have to be significant before the Bengals would be willing to part with two players the caliber of Minter and Hill.

Denver is in a similar position to Green Bay, both in terms of its need for a quality quarterback and its lack of top-tier offensive linemen to offer in trade. The Broncos are intimately familiar with McCarron’s abilities, having seen first-hand what the Alabama product is capable of. McCarron, filling in for an injured Andy Dalton, performed admirably in a 20-16 overtime loss at Denver in the second-to-last game of the 2015 season.

Denver was rumored to be extremely interested in McCarron during the preseason and may be willing to part with a high draft pick, as well. The Broncos are expected to have two third-round picks and two fourth-round selections in the 2018 NFL Draft.

The possibilities are certainly there for the Bengals to make a big splash at or before the NFL’s trade deadline. It is more likely that nothing will happen, but it is always interesting to explore what might have been.