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NFL execs believe AJ McCarron is best QB trade target

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AJ McCarron is a hot commodity, according to the people whose opinions actually matter: NFL decision makers.

Bengals fans have gone back and forth about AJ McCarron, arguing whether he has franchise quarterback potential.

But, it is not our opinions that matter. This offseason, NFL front offices and general managers around the league will consider whether they want to make an offer to make a trade for McCarron and snatch him away from the Bengals. So what do football experts have to say about the fourth year signal caller?

Hall of Fame general manager Bill Polian hasn’t been shy about his affinity for McCarron. Last month he said that the Alabama product is probably the top target for quarterback hungry teams.

And just a few days ago, Polian said he would take McCarron over drafting any quarterback in this year’s NFL Draft.

But Polian — the mastermind behind a Buffalo Bills team that went to three straight Super Bowls (and one more after his departure), built an expansion Carolina Panthers team that they went to the NFC Championship in its second year, and put together a Super Bowl winning team in Indianapolis — is not alone.

NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah recently asked five NFL personnel executives what moves they would make at the quarterback position, and McCarron received higher ratings than New England Patriots quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, arguably the hottest quarterback who could be on the market. The Cleveland Browns and the Chicago Bears are reportedly interested in pursuing Garoppolo this offseason. And Adam Schefter speculated the Patriots would ask for no less than what the Philadelphia Eagles got for Sam Bradford, meaning a first rounder and a fourth rounder.

"If I had to choose one, I would go after McCarron,” one executive told Jeremiah, while saying he’d prefer to not make a quarterback trade. “Ideally, you get him for a late second- or early third-round pick. Then, if it doesn't work out, you draft a QB in 2018."

Judging by what other NFL decision makers have to say, the Bengals could potentially get a first rounder (and more) for McCarron — if they so desire. Of course, just last March, Marvin Lewis said he wouldn’t trade McCarron. And this was when his stock was arguably at its highest, just a couple months after his inspiring near-comeback in the Bengals’ playoff loss to the Steelers. So Lewis’ statement might be an indication that the football minds in Cincinnati are even higher on McCarron than their counterparts elsewhere.

More recently, Bengals director of player personnel Duke Tobin also talked up McCarron’s value to the team.

“AJ is used to the big stage and when he got on it, he produced. So he’s become a very valuable piece of our team,” Tobin told Jim Owczarski of Cincinnati.com. “Even though you don’t see him on the field that much, he’s become an extremely valuable piece of our team.”

If the Bengals are offered a first round pick for McCarron’s services, you’d have to think they’ll accept. It’s just a matter of a team offering the right compensation to force the Bengals’ hand.

To re-live McCarron’s best moments from the 2015 season, watch the following video: