With just over a month until the 2016 NFL Draft and the dust finally starting to settle after the league’s free agency shuffling, fans and analysts turn their attention to NFL trade rumors. As far as the Cincinnati Bengals are concerned, there’s just one name that keeps coming up: AJ McCarron.
Two parts of the Bengals’ elite passing offense will be receiving for someone other than Andy Dalton next year. Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu signed with the Detroit Lions and Atlanta Falcons, respectively. Meanwhile, two other receivers further cemented their place in Cincy: AJ Green signed a contract extension and Brandon Tate signed another one-year deal. The offensive line was reinforced when tackle Eric Winston and center TJ Johnson signed new contracts with the Bengals.
With Andy Dalton on board until at least 2020, it should come as no surprise that the Bengals could probably trade backup AJ McCarron for something very valuable. As Cincinnati searches for the missing piece to finally get the Bengals past their first game in the NFL Playoffs, there are certainly some teams that could give up pieces of their own for a young quarterback who managed six touchdowns and just two interceptions in four regular season games last season.
What teams might be interested?
As Cincy Jungle noted, teams such as the Cleveland Browns, Denver Broncos, and San Francisco 49ers could really benefit from adding a reliable young arm like McCarron. Suffering through quarterback draft busts time and time again, moving McCarron to Ohio’s more desperate football franchise could be a dream come true for the Browns. But that’s not where McCarron sees himself in the immediate future.
During an interview with a local radio station in Mobile, Alabama, McCarron addressed Cleveland and being traded to the Browns. Although he’d certainly see a lot more playing time as a Brown than he would backing up Dalton in Cincy, he thinks being a Bengal is what the man upstairs wants for now.
“Of course, I want to play. What quarterback doesn’t? The way I look at it, God has a plan. Whatever happens is going to happen. He is going to set things up. I expect to be in Cincinnati.”
For those still praying to see the Cincinnati Bengals win the SuperBowl, maybe McCarron is part of a divine plan to deliver the Who Dey Nation to the Promised Land.
What could the Bengals get?
Every year, Cincinnati tries to figure out what they’re missing to end their playoff victory drought. Whatever they think they need at this point, there’s a good chance they could use the Alabama graduate to obtain it. ESPN’s Mike Glennon ranked AJ McCarron second among NFL quarterbacks possibly on the trading block.
The Bengals snagged McCarron in the fifth round of the 2014 NFL Draft. Peter King said Cincinnati could receive a first round draft pick for McCarron, which would be a quite a trade-up after less than four complete regular season games.
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Are the Bengals even interested?
At this point, however, Marvin Lewis and the Cincinnati Bengals are adamant that McCarron isn’t on the trading block. Without claiming any sort of plan from on high, Lewis explained that McCarron is simply the exact player you want at back-up QB.
“He’s what we expected. He’s mature and handled the situation after the football game with what you want to see. I’m proud of him, and proud of what he did, and I know he’ll be nothing but better next season.”
In a league where the quarterback can make or break a franchise, having someone who can step up in the event of an unexpected injury can save a team’s season. McCarron did that for Cincinnati last season, ending with a Playoff game against the Steelers that was as close to a postseason win as any game played by Andy Dalton or Carson Palmer in a Bengals uniform.
Despite expressing explicitly that unloading AJ isn’t on their agenda, the Bengals are likely to face the same unending questions that the Cleveland Cavaliers were forced to answer about Kevin Love as the NBA trade deadline approached. For Cincinnati, the questions will continue to pop up until the focus switches completely to the 2016 NFL Draft on April 28.
[Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images]