A.J. McCarron to become an unrestricted free agent

Cincinnati Bengals, NFL Free Agency

After battling to become an unrestricted free agent, A.J. McCarron won his grievance against the Bengals and will hit the open market.

A.J. McCarron was nearly traded to the Cleveland Browns before the trade deadline last season, with a report the Browns were slow to get the deal to the league office. But the former Alabama signal caller filed a grievance against the Bengals, in an effort to become an unrestricted free agent, and according to the Cincinnati Enquirer he won and will indeed hit the open market in March.

McCarron was drafted in the fifth-round (164th overall) of the 2014 draft by the Bengals. A right shoulder injury, suffered away from the team, led to him to keeping on the non-football injury list for all but two games that season. McCarron’s argument was that he was wrongly listed, which lead to him not accruing a season of service time toward free agency, and he should be an unrestricted free agent this offseason. Clearly, a neutral arbitrator agreed with him. Perhaps the Bengals’ notoriously stingy ways hurt their chances to tether McCarron to a restricted free agent tender.

McCarron has 11 games under his belt over three seasons with the Bengals, including three regular season starts in 2015 in place of an injured Andy Dalton where he completed over 66 percent of his passes with a 97.1 passer rating. He also made a playoff start against the Pittsburgh Steelers, as the Bengals lost 18-16.

The Denver Broncos were rumored to have pursued a trade for McCarron last August. Earlier this week, Vic Lombardi of Altitude Sports suggested they may be interested in McCarron as a free agent. The New York Jets could be toward the top of the list of teams with interest, and the Cleveland Browns could easily circle back toward McCarron.

McCarron needs to leave Cincinnati to get a chance to start. The danger for teams looking to invest heavily will be the small sample of work he’s been able to offer, with past examples like Scott Mitchell, Rob Johnson and Brock Osweiler as cautionary tales. But McCarron will at least enter the market with clarity on his status, and with the outcome he wanted.

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