There’s a lot of chatter around the NFL regarding AJ McCarron’s status with the Bengals. Will he remain with the team? Will he be traded? Are the Bengals even considering letting him go?
With the NFL Combine underway, Bengals director of player personnel Duke Tobin spoke with the media on Wednesday morning and answered quite a few questions regarding Mccarron’s value to the Bengals and whether the team will consider a trade.
“The phones in our office work,” Tobin said. “They always work. I’ve got an interest in listening to any of you that want to talk. The larger point on AJ McCarron for us is he’s a very valuable piece of what we do. It’s not a point where we’re saying, ‘What do we do with this guy? We don’t have a plan for him.’ There is a plan in place for us. He plays a very valuable position and you’re always one play away from going to your backup quarterback.”
Tobin hasn’t backed down on his stance of McCarron being a valuable asset to the team. And, while it’s true that you’re always one play away from needing your backup quarterback, is any backup quarterback really going to lead his team to a playoff win? This past season, the Dolphins and Raiders both played a Wild Card game with a backup quarterback, and both teams lost. The Raiders were heavy contenders to win a Super Bowl with Derek Carr until he went down with a broken fibula in Week 16 and was unable to play in the playoffs. The same could have been said of Andy Dalton and the Bengals in 2015.
When Dalton went down with a fractured thumb toward the end of last season, McCarron almost did lead Cincinnati to a playoff win; but it was really just for one quarter where his play was impressive. And, at the end of the game, the Bengals had fewer points than their opponent and the Steelers won that Wild Card matchup.
“We view our team as a team that can challenge. A team that is in the mix to challenge and if you don’t have a viable No. 2 quarterback that you can go to and win with, you can tank your entire season,” Tobin said. ‘He’s a very valuable piece of what we do. If somebody wants to call and talk to us, call and talk to us. But they’re going to find out we value AJ McCarron quite a bit.”
Because McCarron will only have three accrued seasons when he becomes a free agent in 2018, he will be a restricted free agent (not unrestricted as would typically be the case) next offseason. That’s because he was on the Non-Football Injury list for much of his rookie season. An accrued NFL season means playing or being on the practice squad for six or more games. McCarron didn’t reach that number of games on the roster in 2014 and because of that, he’ll only have three accrued seasons when he hits free agency in 2018.
Duke Tobin on AJ McCarron: "If somebody wants to call and talk to us, call and talk to us, but they're going to find out we value (him)." pic.twitter.com/34XzjnPBsU— Dan Labbe (@dan_labbe) March 1, 2017
“We do know we have him for another year and that’s valuable and if there’s a second year hopefully we come to an agreement to have him here longer,” Tobin said via Bengals.com. “We want to be respectful of his situation and ultimately it will be decided by someone other than AJ and someone other than the Cincinnati Bengals as to what’s correct and what’s not.”
Restricted free agents can be kept by their current team with of one of three tenders. Per Pro Football Talk, the lowest level tender provides a right or first refusal; the second-round tender provides a right of first refusal and a second-round pick as compensation if the original team doesn’t match, and the highest level tender is a first-round tender, which carries a right of first refusal and a first-round pick as compensation. In 2016, the tender amounts were $1.671 million, $2.553 million, and $3.635 million, respectively for each of the three levels. Those numbers should be higher in 2018 when the Bengals are figuring out how to handle McCarron in restricted free agency... Assuming he’s still on the roster at that time.
Tobin only had nice things to see about McCarron, as he continued to prove why McCarron is a value to the team.
“We’re in the AJ McCarron business. He’s a good player. He’s proven valuable,” Tobin said. “He elevates our offense even when he’s not on the field by the way he works and the way he leads and the preparedness that he has when called upon. There’s going to have to be something pretty valuable for us to be out of that business.”
Tobin’s final talking point on McCarron was regarding whether the Bengals would deal him to a division rival, like the Browns. The Browns (as per usual) are seeking their franchise quarterback of the future and McCarron’s name has been linked to the team. Beyond just the Browns’ quarterback need, former Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson is now the Browns head coach and Jackson was very involved in McCarron’s 2015 season in which he stepped in for the injured Dalton.
“We’ll listen to whatever anyone is thinking. We’re not actively looking to diminish our football team by trading AJ McCarron and that diminishes our football team,” Tobin said regarding trading McCarron to the Browns. “It has to be something we feel is valuable enough to warrant doing that. What it is, I don’t know. Who it is to, I don’t know. It’s not ideal to trade guys within your division, particularly at that position. But we listen.”