Many thought with the premium placed on starter caliber quarterbacks, AJ McCarron would have been traded by now. But here we are, just two months away from the start of the 2017 NFL regular season, and it doesn’t look like the former Alabama star is going anywhere. While many Cincinnati Bengals fans are frustrated, as they were hoping to get some compensation in exchange for a guy who is unlikely to see any meaningful snaps, the higher ups in Cincinnati are likely right in holding out for the ideal offer or hanging onto a valuable backup quarterback.
So where could McCarron end up if he does indeed get traded? Watch the following video to find out.
And assuming he doesn’t get traded, let’s continue on to his place on the roster in 2017.
Experience: Fourth year player
Weight: 210 pounds
McCarron is entering the fourth and final year of a rookie deal he signed in 2014. He will make $690,000 this year with a cap hit of $735,413, according to Over The Cap. Whether he will be a restricted or unrestricted free agent next year is something that still needs to be resolved. The Bengals believe his rookie year shouldn’t count as a whole season (which would make him a RFA), while McCarron’s side disagrees, and believes he should be allowed to hit the open market as an URFA. “That’s for the lawyers,” McCarron said regarding his free agent status.
It seems unlikely he gets traded at this point, barring a major injury to a starting quarterback for a team that wants to win now. But as things currently stand, there are still a few teams that make sense for McCarron:
Denver Broncos - Trevor Siemian showed flashes, particularly against the Cincinnati Bengals. But the Broncos under John Elway have proven to be an impatient franchise. If neither Siemian nor Paxton Lynch look ready in the preseason, Elway may just pull the trigger on a trade in order to avoid missing the playoffs for the second year in a row. This, after starting his career as vice president and GM with five straight playoff appearances (including four 12 win seasons), two Super Bowl appearances and a championship. But the reality is, Elway drives a tough bargain, and it is unlikely he would give up a first or second rounder for a quarterback (McCarron) who is just about as unproven as a guy he already has on his roster (Siemian).
New York Jets - The Jets’ quarterback situation is far from perfect. The signing of 38-year-old Josh McCown in March probably means the team isn't sold on Christian Hackenberg, a second round pick a year ago. McCarron would be a clear upgrade over both players. But the Jets are apparently tanking and hoping to find a franchise quarterback with one of the first picks in the 2018 draft.
San Francisco 49ers - Similar to the Jets, the 49ers have not resolved their quarterback issues. They brought in Brian Hoyer to be a competent stopgap option and then proceeded to take C.J. Beathard in the third round of the draft. Beathard will sit behind Hoyer, as coach Kyle Shanahan has made clear that he will look to develop the rookie for now in hopes that "one day" he will be an NFL starter. While McCarron is probably better than Hoyer and far more polished than Beathard, the 49ers are so far from contending that their current quarterback situation suits them just fine.
Buffalo Bills - The fact that Bills brass restructured Tyrod Taylor's contract - resulting in a $10 million paycut - is a clear indication they're not sold on him long-term. In fact, they were reportedly ready to cut him if he did not agree to renegotiate his deal. That simply is not how teams should treat franchise quarterbacks. Meanwhile, Cardale Jones is about as physically talented as it gets, but he's probably another couple years away. McCarron is younger and cheaper than Taylor and far ahead of Jones in his development, but it seems unlikely Buffalo would make a move for him, as they appear to be in wait and see mode with Taylor, who has been pretty solid considering the circumstance the last two years.
Jacksonville Jaguars - This is an interesting situation. Blake Bortles was the third overall pick in the 2014 draft, but so far he has been a turnover machine (51 interceptions and 18 fumbles in three years) and garbage time king. Perhaps most concerning is that his mechanics have been a mess, though he is still working hard on improving them. The Jags have surrounded him with talent on offense and defense through the draft and free agency, and the team and city of Jacksonville can't stomach much more losing. So if Bortles looks like a disaster through training camp and the preseason, there's a (very) slight chance Tom Coughlin will make a drastic move for McCarron. However, the Jags did just pick up Bortles' fifth year option, giving him a vote of confidence, making it unlikely the Bengals' backup will move to sunny Florida this year. Next year, though, could be an entirely different story.
Cleveland Browns - Before the draft, Hue Jackson would have loved to have McCarron on his roster. The fit was almost too perfect— McCarron's relative success (considering the tough situation he was put in late in the 2015 season) was largely attributed to the former Bengals offensive coordinator, and McCarron has the kind of confidence Jackson seeks in a signal caller. But then the team drafted DeShone Kizer in the second round. Kizer is clearly a guy the Browns believe has a very bright future. In fact, Jackson is so eager to what he's got that he even put him in with the first teamers during OTAs. So while Cleveland may have been the most likely landing spot for McCarron at season's end, it's probably now the least likely spot on this list.
The teams listed here are the only ones that even make sense for McCarron right now, and, as demonstrated above, none of them seem like they're ready to trade for him. But remember, a lot can change between now and the start of the regular season (or the trade deadline). The Minnesota Vikings, who were a preseason Super Bowl contender, made a desperate trade for Sam Bradford just before the start of the 2016 regular season. And Hue Jackson and the Oakland Raiders, off to an inspiring 4-2 start, forked over two draft picks for Carson Palmer in 2011 after starting QB Jason Campbell broke his collarbone. In other words, an injury to the starting QB on a team that is heavily invested in contending might be the most likely landing spot for McCarron.
Bengals Roster Chances
As long as McCarron is in Cincinnati, he will make the Bengals’ 53-man roster as the second best quarterback on the team. He’s not going to start with Andy Dalton on the roster for the foreseeable future, and even though McCarron wants his chance, he’s going to need to remain patient and wait it out.
The fifth round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft has shown promise in regards to his ability to be a starter in the NFL, but with the Bengals that chance is unlikely to come. Dalton is under contract through the 2020 season and the team has shown no reason to think his job as the starter is in jeopardy. That makes sense considering the 2015 and 2016 seasons were two of Dalton’s best and it seems he has still yet to hit his NFL ceiling.
Roster Odds: 99.9 percent.