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How A.J. McCarron Fits Into the Bengals Future

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Jun 11, 2014; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals quarterback AJ McCarron (5) during minicamp at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

When the Cincinnati Bengals sent third string quarterback A.J. McCarron to quarterback Guru Dr. Tom House this week, the team may have had more in mind for the second year Alabama product.

Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton is entering the second year of his new contract. For those that need a refresher, Dalton’s contract becomes a “pay-as-you-go” contract after this season meaning it gives the Bengals the option of releasing Dalton with no ramifications to the cap as there is no guaranteed money going forward.

So why exactly are the Bengals focusing so much on A.J. McCarron? It could be the Bengals are either anticipating the failure of Dalton’s progression, or fostering an insurance policy in case the team is forced to employ a reserve quarterback.

Considering that the Bengals have invested time and effort in second-string quarterback Jason Campbell, grooming McCarron as a reserve seems virtually pointless. There is the distinct possibility that Cincinnati could be trying to prepare for a future with McCarron at the helm.

The move to send McCarron to Dr. House could say that the Bengals are in fact planning for life without Dalton, maybe even since last May.

When the Bengals drafted A.J. McCarron in the fifth round of the 2014 NFL Draft, they already had signed Jason Campbell to be the team’s second-string quarterback. For a jog of memory, Andy Dalton had been working on his new contract with the Bengals. This means one thing. The Bengals knew exactly what kind of “pay-as-you-go” contract they were going to offer Dalton.

If Dalton were to accept this contract, which he eventually did, the Bengals would need a quarterback to be ready to go two years from then, as the first two years were essentially guaranteed for Dalton. If Dalton were not to accept, he would have been in the final year of his rookie contract. So they would have needed Dalton’s successor anyway.

So why not take the quarterback that won two National Championships at the University of Alabama? A.J. McCarron has a very pleasing scouting report. It included praises such as good decision making skills, leadership, and holding teammates accountable. All traits that Dalton has failed to show time and time again.

This week’s news that McCarron has been sent to a one-week stint with Dr. House (he will do two more weeks across the off-season also) only further establishes the theory that the team is potentially readying itself for life after Dalton. House is the same man that worked with Dalton last year and with other quarterbacks, most notably Tom Brady and Drew Brees.

It seems rather interesting that the Bengals are focusing so much effort on their A.J. McCarron, especially when considering how heavily Dalton has been criticized and coincidentally, when he is entering what is widely considered to be, the final guaranteed year of his contract.

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