Despite the fact that the Bengals have regularly denied any significant desire to trade backup quarterback AJ McCarron, the trade talks aren’t going away. That is because trading McCarron away this offseason makes so much sense. It seems like a win-win for everyone involved, if the Bengals can find an offer they feel properly compensates the club for the NFL’s best insurance policy at quarterback.
From McCarron and the rest of the NFL’s perspective, it is a shame for a player with his talent and proven ability to play at the NFL level to be sitting on the bench, wasting valuable time in which he could be starting for another team. From the Bengals’ perspective, his trade value will never be higher than it currently is. He is 26-years-old with four games of starting experience in the NFL (three regular season, one post season). So, teams in need of a fresh direction at quarterback would be absolutely thrilled to pick up a young, talented player like McCarron. One idea that makes a lot of sense, was detailed by Mike Sando of ESPN. The idea is to trade McCarron to the quarterback starved 49ers for a respectable haul.
It's quite possible a young talent such as McCarron could excite the 49ers more than a 33-year-old veteran such as Cutler. If that's the case, why not make a play for Andy Dalton's backup?
Under this scenario, the 49ers could use the second overall choice in the 2017 draft for Alabama defensive lineman Jonathan Allen, who would team with DeForest Buckner to form a talented young tandem up front. In Armstead, the Bengals would be getting a tall, versatile defensive end fitting their prototype. Amstead, chosen 17th overall in 2015, is signed through 2018, a year longer than McCarron's rookie contract is scheduled to run.
Defensive end is a position the Bengals could use plenty of help at, due to the continued ineffectiveness of Michael Johnson and the disappointing (lack of) development from Margus Hunt. At one time, Armstead was considered a very attractive prospect in the 2015 NFL Draft due to his elite size, instincts, refined technique, and drive to improve no matter how successful he has already been. He contributed as a rotational lineman for the 49ers in his rookie season, and even recorded starting experience in 2016. Unfortunately, a shoulder injury that required surgery caused him to miss the second half of the 2016 season. In eight games played in 2016 (four starts), he totaled 15 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble and two stuffs. In his rookie year, Armstead accumulated 19 tackles in 16 games played (one start), along with 2.0 sacks.
A fresh start could help Armstead return to the process of reaching his potential, and could take care of one of the top personnel needs the Bengals must deal with this offseason. In this hypothetical scenario, the Bengals would receive Armstead, a 2015 17th overall pick and an extra sixth-round draft pick in addition to the two the club already has. A sixth round pick might not seem like much at first glance, but recently the Bengals have found gems such as Rex Burkhead, Derron Smith, and Cody Core in the sixth round. With three picks, you would expect the Bengals to find at least one talented player who was overlooked by most scouts and could contribute effectively on the Bengals’ roster.
In this trade scenario, the Bengals receive a talented, albeit unproven, defensive end in addition to a sixth round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. In return, they would simply need to send their backup quarterback to San Francisco so he can have his chance to make a lasting impact at the NFL level. If the Bengals are so inclined, the club can even use that extra sixth round pick to take another hidden gem of a backup quarterback in the sixth round, which isn’t much later than they selected McCarron in 2014. Otherwise, the team can let McCarron sit on the bench for another season and re-evaluate his stock when he becomes a restricted free agent in 2018.