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AJ McCarron trade to Browns possible, but only if price is right

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Cincinnati wants a big return for AJ McCarron if he’s dealt, and it may be bigger if a division rival is involved.

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at Cleveland Browns Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

Despite continual talk surrounding the Bengals trading AJ McCarron, we’re three months into the offseason and no trade has occurred.

The best offer the Bengals could get for their backup quarterback may not come until during the draft, so don’t expect a deal to get done anytime soon. During the draft, teams are typically the most desperate for a quarterback, assuming they fail to draft one.

What if the first round ends with the Browns not having a quarterback and holding the first pick on Day 2? The Bengals reportedly want a second-round draft pick, at the least, in return for McCarron, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Would the 33rd-overall pick be enough to pry McCarron away from the Bengals if Cleveland becomes that desperate for a quarterback? And would Mike Brown actually trade a promising quarterback to a division rival?

It sounds like the answer is yes, but only if the trade offer blows him away, as Bengals.com’s Geoff Hobson wrote Sunday.

With all coaches and GMs gathered together this week, expect more AJ McCarron-to-the-Browns buzz. It may become rather deafening if Browns head coach Hue Jackson can’t pry Jimmy Garoppolo away from Bill Belichick, his opposite number in New England. Of course, with Patriots owner Robert Kraft telling the media here Monday that Tom Brady has told him he's going to play six or seven more years, why wouldn't they move Garoppolo?

It’s believed trading a backup quarterback within the AFC North to a coach they greatly regard is rather distasteful to Bengals president Mike Brown. But given Bengals director of player personnel Duke Tobin’s pronouncement earlier this month that the Bengals will listen to anyone, Brown also appears to have a price.

During the NFL Owners Meetings this week in Phoenix, Browns head coach Hue Jackson wouldn’t talk about trading for McCarron, but he didn’t shoot down a trade happening either.

Jackson was the Bengals’ offensive coordinator when McCarron was drafted out of Alabama in 2014. Though they were only together for two years, it was clear the then-Bengals offensive coordinator had found something in the former fifth-round pick, who had a strong finish to the 2015 season, starting in place of the injured Andy Dalton.

That is why the Bengals view McCarron in such high regard, and why they want a large haul for him if traded. That 33rd pick might be enough, but are the Browns willing to trade what is nearly a first-round pick?

The good news is it doesn’t appear Cleveland is the only team that could land McCarron. ESPN's Rich Cimini reported earlier this month that the New York Jets would consider trading Sheldon Richardson to the Bengals for McCarron.

The Jets hold the 39th overall pick, but they also have Josh McCown, Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg under contract, so they may not want to spend another high pick on a quarterback right now. Though, considering the situation they’re in, they may need to.

Cleveland seems like the most quarterback-needy NFL team right now. The only quarterbacks on the Browns’ roster are Cody Kessler, Kevin Hogan and the enigmatic Brock Osweiler, who is expected to be cut or traded this offseason.

All told, the Bengals are publicly saying they won’t “seek” a trade for McCarron, but that doesn’t mean they won’t deal him if the offer is right. We may need to wait until closer to the draft for such an offer to come, if it comes at all.