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The one deal I wish Bengals would make at NFL trade deadline

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If I had the power to make one trade, I would bring back a key contributor that walked out the door in free agency last year.

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NFL: Cleveland Browns at Houston Texans Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Good news, Bengals fans! I can make one trade for the Bengals right now, and it’s going to be a good one.

Perhaps I know someone who plays poker with Mike Brown, and Mike owes my friend a lot of money. Maybe I found a lamp, and after wishing for a billion dollars and washboard abs, my final wish was to make a trade for the Bengals.

Better yet, I bought a Marvin Lewis Halloween costume, went to the Bengals front office where everyone mistook me for the head coach, and made the trade myself.

In any scenario, I have the keys to the city. You’re welcome.

Rest assured, I will take this responsibility seriously. I won’t make just any trade (as much as I am tempted to trade for Ken Zampese, just so I could fire him again). Rather, I would try to get someone that could help the Bengals win games immediately, as well as help the Bengal’s on next year’s Super Bowl run.

My first call would be to a friend who lives just up the road off of I-71: Former Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson.

I would call the Cleveland Browns and propose this trade: AJ McCarron for Kevin Zeitler.

You remember Kevin, don’t you? Or is he dead to you?

Zeitler was one of the key linemen that earned the Bengals the seventh-ranked offensive line in 2015. The former first-round draft pick helped Andy Dalton and AJ McCarron win a franchise record-tying 12 games and the AFC North Crown.

While the Browns are winless yet again, we know it is not because of Zeitler. So why not bring him back down and send them a quarterback we’re not using?

I like this trade. It helps both teams fill a gaping hole that they cannot seem to fix.

How McCarron would help the Browns

First of all, let’s talk about why the Browns should accept this trade.

Isn’t it obvious? The Browns need an arm under center in the worst way.

Jackson just named DeShone Kizer the starter after benching him twice already this season. This clearly communicates that the Browns have no other options at the position. Kizer, who is last in the NFL in QBR, has lost his job not once, but twice, because of his turnover issues, yet broke through to the starting lineup again.

Does this speak more to the quarterback who has a 3:11 touchdown to interception ratio, or to the other quarterbacks on the team? Kizer has started six games, thrown interceptions in each and thrown touchdowns in just two. He has as many fumbles as he does touchdowns, yet the Browns have no one that can perform better.

The truth is, the Browns have a tendency to draft questionable quarterbacks, which is the most glaring issue this troubled franchise has faced. Names like Brady Quinn, Brandon Weeden, and Johnny Manziel come to mind. Even though it's early, it might be time to add Kizer to this list.

Say what you will about the Bengals’ front office, but they can find diamonds in the rough. For example, Carl Lawson and Clint Boling are both fourth round investments who are collecting significant returns. Three years ago, the Bengals found another hidden gem in quarterback AJ McCarron.

Circling back, McCarron would be more sure of a bet than any other quarterback the Browns have fielded. Why take the trouble in drafting, developing, and testing a quarterback when another team has done that for you?

McCarron is widely considered to be one of, if not the best backup quarterbacks in the NFL and could very easily start for many NFL teams today. We saw what he was capable of in 2015 when he spot-started four games while Andy Dalton was injured, and it was better than anything the Browns have had in years.

By the way, his offensive coordinator in 2015 was Hue Jackson. McCarron could probably start tomorrow and feel comfortable in the Browns offense, since he’s seen it before.

How Zeitler would help the Bengals

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the Bengals’ offensive line is bad.

Will Kevin Zeitler magically transform the line into the best in the NFL? Absolutely not. But adding him would give the Bengals one less leak to plug in the offseason.

With Clint Boling playing as well as he has this year and Trey Hopkins as the feel-good story of the year, Zeitler ideally would move to center to replace Russell Bodine. That would hopefully patch up the interior line, leaving only the tackle positions to figure out over the offseason. It makes resetting the line a much less daunting task.

The good news is Zeitler is under contract for the Browns until 2021. Since teams don’t really trade players, but trade contracts, the Bengals would have Zeitler until that point. The current deal would last until he is 32 years old, which is when his production would start to decline.

Other considerations

The Bengals only have about $12.5 million in cap space this year. Zeitler would come with a cap hit of $8.4 million. The Bengals would be crazy to take on such a venture. McCarron’s cap hit (coming from a fifth-round draft pick’s rookie deal) is only $735,000, which is far too little to offset Zeitler’s contract.

The Bengals would have to get the Browns to pay his salary (at least for this year), but they have $63 million of cap space left so they can absorb it. How would the Bengals get the Browns to agree? The Browns are desperate, so the Bengals have all the leverage in this deal.

The other big question is McCarron’s contract status going into next year. His rookie deal would be finished, but as of right now he would be a restricted free agent. So the Browns could keep him for a few more years after this, making the deal a little sweeter.

All things considered, this would be a win for both teams. Zeitler is no use to Browns protecting a turnover machine. McCarron is no use to the Bengals sitting on the bench. The Browns season is already over, so they can start rebuilding.

The Bengals’ season is fading into the abyss, so if Jeff Driskel has to play for the Bengals, it would be a good opportunity for him. It’s a win-win for everyone.

In conclusion, does this look like the face of a man who wants to stay in Cleveland?

NFL: Cleveland Browns at Houston Texans Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports

If you could make one trade for the Bengals, what would it be?