AJ McCarron is only one not laughing at Browns’ dysfunction
The Browns didn’t even need to formally acquire another quarterback to ruin him.
AJ McCarron is the dragged-through-the-Browns loser of the trade deadline after the Cleveland-Cincinnati trade fell through (or was consummated too late?) Tuesday, and the quarterback who has been itching for his own team to lead will again report to the Bengals as an intriguing, untested backup quarterback lacking a way out.
The details are contested about the trade that wasn’t. The two teams seemed to have agreed on sending McCarron to Cleveland for a second- and third-round pick minutes before the deadline. The Bengals sent their signed paperwork to the league in time. Cleveland, whether because of reported front-office disagreement or because of tardiness, did not. The Browns appealed to the league, arguing for the trade to be completed, and the NFL said no.
So McCarron will take the same seat on the bench he’s occupied since being a fifth-round pick in 2014. The former Alabama star has started three games in his career, the results moderately impressive (2-1 record, six touchdowns, two interceptions, 97.1 QB rating). But behind Andy Dalton, he has merely been unused insurance and has all along been clear that he wants more.
“I definitely wouldn’t be distraught at all,” McCarron said last offseason when asked how he would react to a trade, as Cincinnati was shopping him.
“I try not to worry about it. You’re always gonna think about it. I’d be lyin’; whoever told you that I wouldn’t, or if they were going through the same situation, you’re going to think about it. Because you want to play as a competitor.”
He hasn’t thrown a pass this year. Granted, Cleveland is 0-8 and a laughingstock, but it’s a place where McCarron could have showcased himself and finally seen the field, not just this year but next.
McCarron’s contract situation further clouds how soon he can escape quarterback purgatory. He’s in the last year of his rookie contract, when he should be able to become an unrestricted free agent and have his choice of where to go next. However, because he wasn’t on the active roster for long enough his rookie season, there is debate whether he will be restricted or unrestricted. He has acknowledged that an arbitrator will decide his status after the season, and the possibility of being chained to Cincinnati for another season is daunting.
The Bengals didn’t get the draft picks they desired, the Browns didn’t get an intriguing quarterback and McCarron didn’t find relief he’s wanted for three years.
A day after publicly congratulating Jimmy Garoppolo for getting his chance under center, in getting shipped from the Patriots to the 49ers, McCarron is still waiting for his own moment.