In the NFL if you don’t have a franchise quarterback, you are looking for one. The Bengals’ A.J. McCarron had a prestigious college career at Alabama, but was not drafted until the fifth round of the 2014 NFL Draft. He has not played much in his NFL career, but impressed in the absence of Andy Dalton at the end of the 2015 season. The Bengals value him and are asking at least a second round pick to trade McCarron to a quarterback hungry team. Who would trade for McCarron? There are a handful of teams who it would make a lot of sense for.
Who Would Trade for A.J. McCarron?
The Broncos (51st Overall Selection)
The Minnesota Vikings looked into a trade for McCarron after Teddy Bridgewater was injured last year. Mike Zimmer, Head Coach of the Vikings, was previously the Defensive Coordinator in Cincinnati and although his time in Cincinnati did not overlap with McCarron’s the relationship between Zimmer and the Bengals was certainly a factor in trade talks. The Denver Broncos’ Head Coach Vance Joseph was the Defensive Backs Coach in Cincinnati during McCarron’s rookie season. Joseph has a relationship with the Bengals organization and saw a lot of McCarron against his own defensive backs in practice.
The Broncos need to do a little work to get their offensive line where they want it to be, but besides that the quarterback position is their only major issue. They have an excellent defense and a sound running game. This would be an ideal opportunity for McCarron. Trevor Siemian was their starter for most of the 2016 season. They had also drafted Paxton Lynch. It is difficult to say where Lynch is at in his development, particularly since this is a new coaching staff, but I would imagine Broncos Executive Vice President of Football Operations John Elway has a pretty good idea.
The Broncos have been linked to both Mike Glennon and Tony Romo. Romo obviously has them both beat on experience, but he is not getting any younger and has struggled to stay healthy. Glennon has significantly more NFL starting experience than McCarron, but his quarterback rating as a starter is not as good as McCarron’s has been in limited starts. McCarron may be the better option for the Broncos. He would be a more affordable option this season, plus if Lynch or Siemian beats him out, the Broncos can let him walk in free agency next year and not pay him another dime. The Broncos would still have their first pick, which they may use on a tackle to improve their offensive line.
Browns (52nd Overall Selection Acquired via Trade from Tennessee)
The Cleveland Browns also have a head coach with ties to Cincinnati. When the Bengals drafted McCarron, Browns’ Head Coach Hue Jackson was the team’s first year Offensive Coordinator. Jackson was a part of drafting McCarron and coached him during his first two NFL seasons. Jackson’s familiarity with McCarron means that he knows what he could get out of the young quarterback more than any other NFL head coach.
Why would it make sense for the Browns to trade for McCarron? The Browns have two first round picks and two second round picks. Many have speculated that the Browns will take a quarterback with one of their first round picks, but trading their extra second round pick would allow them to add a quarterback who Hue Jackson knows well and use three of the top thirty-three picks to improve their roster in other ways.
Redskins (49th Overall Selection)
This one is a bit of a wild card. Jay Gruden was the Offensive Coordinator for the Bengals prior to becoming the Head Coach of the Washington Redskins. This was also prior to McCarron’s arrival in Cincinnati, so he does not have the familiarity with McCarron that Joseph and Jackson do.
Kirk Cousins is unhappy. He says he will not play on the franchise tag and there are rumors of a trade to the San Francisco 49ers. If Cousins is traded, the Redskins may not have many other options. Tony Romo and Mike Glennon will likely not last very long in free agency. In a trade for McCarron the Redskins would give up very little. The Redskins would retain their first pick and maybe pick up more picks in a deal for Cousins. This would allow for the Redskins to use other picks to rebuild their defense and put some weapons around McCarron. Once again, the Redskins would have no long term money tied up in McCarron so if they don’t think he is the future, they can let him enter free agency after the season. McCarron would at least provide a temporary solution to the problem of losing Cousins.
In these scenarios the Broncos, Browns, or Redskins would be able to acquire a quarterback giving up very little and not be tied to him past this season in case he does not pan out. In any of these events, the Bengals would pick up an additional second rounder, in an ideal position for them to pick up much needed help at any of a number of positions. A trade for McCarron that sent a high second round pick to Cincinnati would be extremely beneficial to the Bengals who have many needs and are unlikely to fill them through free agency.