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Browns interested in AJ McCarron, per report

Hue Jackson may have an eye on his former pupil as Cleveland’s next quarterback.

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

With the NFL Draft closing in fast, the Browns still don’t have an answer at quarterback.

Cleveland has already made a run at Patriots backup Jimmy Garoppolo, but it sounds like Garoppolo will remain in New England through the draft. That’s great news for the Bengals as they listen to offers for their own backup, AJ McCarron.

Well, it sounds like the Browns may have their eye on McCarron heading into the draft, according to’s Mary Kay Cabot.

A few NFL sources have told me the Browns like McCarron because he knows the system, enjoys playing for Hue Jackson and has demonstrated that he can win in the NFL. He also wants to be traded. He’d give the Browns a good bridge QB while they develop their rookie. He’d give them a chance to win some games in 2017.

This isn’t the first time that McCarron and Cleveland have been linked in a potential deal, and it won’t be the last. Some NFL execs have believed all along that McCarron was the best trade target, and that may be true in regards to Cleveland.

With former Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson now the Browns’ head coach, McCarron is who they already have a great feel for, whereas someone like Garoppolo is a big unknown in their system.

Another thing that’s giving McCarron more value than Garoppolo is that the former is effectively under contract for two more seasons, because McCarron is going to be a restricted free agent in 2018.

That means whoever has McCarron on their roster next year could use a first-round tender on him, which means any team that signs him to an offer sheet must give that team a first-round pick in addition to paying the contract they sign McCarron to. It would be unlikely any team does that, so whichever team has McCarron entering the 2017 season will very likely have him in 2018 as well, if they so choose.

And all indications are that Garoppolo will still draw a much bigger haul if he’s dealt, possibly a high first-round selection. The Bengals, however, sound more willing to accept an early second-round pick for McCarron.

One thing hurting a potential McCarron trade to the Browns is that they’re a division rival of the Bengals, which could cause Mike Brown to drive up his asking price. If Brown and the rest of the organization feel McCarron is a franchise quarterback, then they probably don’t want to see him twice a year with their in-state rival.

It would help if other teams jump in the McCarron sweepstakes. The Jets have been one team rumored to have interest. Most of the other teams with quarterback needs added a veteran quarterback this offseason, though the 49ers could be a darkhorse since they have only Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley.

In the end, my guess is the Bengals keep McCarron for one more season. They’ll get some decent offers for him before and during the draft, but they value him too much as someone that can fill in for Andy Dalton if he gets injured.

Do you think McCarron gets traded this year?