CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – AJ McCarron will be an unrestricted free agent come March 14 giving the Browns another opportunity to pursue the soon-to-be former Bengals quarterback.
McCarron won his service time grievance against the Bengals Thursday, which was handled by an independent arbitrator, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Had McCarron lost the grievance he would have become a restricted free agent meaning Cincinnati could’ve matched any offer sheet or received draft pick compensation from the team that signs him should they not match an offer.
The Browns tried to trade for McCarron at the trade deadline on Oct. 31, 2017 but failed to properly communicate the terms of the deal with the league office in time nixing the trade at the last minute.
It was another egg on their face moment for the Browns, who the Patriots decided not to do business with when they dealt Jimmy Garoppolo to San Francisco 18 hours earlier.
Cleveland turned their focus to McCarron in the hopes that he would provide a similar impact for them that Garappolo ultimately provided the 49ers. San Francisco went from 1-10 club to winning their last 5 games with Garappolo on the field to finish the season 6-10. The Browns were stuck with rookie DeShone Kizer and as a result went winless.
The Browns intend to add a veteran quarterback this offseason. McCarron joins Kirk Cousins, who will command a record-setting contract on the open market, as their primary targets next month when free agency begins.
They already lost out on Alex Smith, who is headed to Washington when the new league year begins, after Kansas City also elected not to do business with the Browns, which disappointed some within the rebuilt organization.
The Browns are very much aware that they have a major perception problem within the league as years of instability, volatility and losing are now starting to take their toll and affect their ability to conduct normal business like making trades and signing free agents.
It may now take more than just money to get players to take a chance on coming to Cleveland.
Hue Jackson’s admiration and respect for McCarron is well known. Jackson hired former Bengals offensive coordinator Ken Zampese as his new quarterbacks coach so familiarity will be easy for the Browns to sell him.
Despite an estimated $110-plus million in available salary cap space, Cleveland will have stiff competition from the New York Jets and Denver Broncos among other teams for quarterbacks this offseason.
Regardless of what QB gets added in free agency, it is still expected that the Browns will use the No. 1 pick in the upcoming draft on a quarterback.