On Thursday, quarterback AJ McCarron won his grievance case against the Cincinnati Bengals after an arbitrator ruled in his favor. The case stems back to when McCarron was placed on the non-football injury list (NFI) in 2014, and wasn’t activated until early December.
An NFL player needs six games in a season to have an “accrued season”, which aided the Bengals in terms of keeping AJ around following the expiration of his contract. The NFI designation meant McCarron’s free agency and the Bengals compensation this season would have been affected if not for the ruling.
A player needs four years of service time to be an unrestricted free agent. For another team to sign a restricted free agent it must first sign the player to an offer sheet, which the player’s existing team has five days to match.
Teams can restrict the movement of restricted free agents by using tenders associated with draft picks. It is expected that the Bengals would have assigned a first-round tender to McCarron if he had been a restricted free agent, so any team that signed him to an offer sheet that the Bengals chose not to match would have had to surrender a first-round draft pick to Cincinnati.
So with the ruling, McCarron is now an unrestricted free agent, available to everybody, including the Bengals. That probably won’t happen, but we’ve found several potential landings spots for AJ that gives him a chance to at least, compete for a starting job.
Browns– this is an obvious landing spot, I mean, the Browns DID trade for McCarron at the deadline, however, they failed to file the paperwork in time, nullifying the trade. Now they can get him without having to move any draft picks. He obviously would have to battle out DeShone Kizer for the starting gig, but it is there for him.
Broncos– Denver appears to have pretty much given up on former 1st-round pick Paxton Lynch. They’ve been linked to Kirk Cousins and now AJ McCarron to take over in 2018. The Broncos aren’t a bad team at all, they still have a good defense, their offense however…is their biggest question mark. Had they had a Kirk Cousins last season, they might have won more five games.
Cardinals– this is probably a long shot for Arizona. Doubt they go from Blaine Gabbert and Drew Stanton to AJ McCarron. They seem more interested in finding a franchise guy or getting a bridge QB like Sam Bradford.
Jets– The Jets QB situation is a mess. They drafted Christian Hackenberg in the second round two years ago, and he’s gotten exactly zero playing time for a team that hasn’t made the playoffs. Kirk Cousins might be in the Jets future more than McCarron.
Buffalo– The Bills could be an option for McCarron, but for whatever reason, I feel if they don’t go with a high draft pick, a player like Nick Foles might actually fare better in Buffalo than McCarron would.