Should the Bengals Trade AJ McCarron?

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Jan 9, 2016; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals quarterback AJ McCarron (5) during player introductions before the AFC Wild Card playoff football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 9, 2016; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals quarterback AJ McCarron (5) during player introductions before the AFC Wild Card playoff football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports /
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AJ McCarron has proven himself as an effective member of the Bengals roster when called upon. Finding himself once again at number two on the depth chart, he wants either a new home or a starting job. Is trading him a good idea?

First and foremost, AJ McCarron is a winner. He amassed a 34-2 record with the Crimson Tide in college and became the first passer in the BCS era to win two consecutive National Championships. Last December, he also became the first Alabama quarterback since 1987 to win an NFL game. McCarron thrives on success. But it’s hard to win when you don’t play.

This poses a problem. AJ is a proud guy. He knows the magnitude of his achievements. But too much confidence from a backup doesn’t always sit well with fans and other players.

Last season, when Andy Dalton went down with a thumb injury, McCarron compared himself to Tom Brady, pointing out that Brady got his start in a very similar situation (he neglected to note any parallels to Matt Cassel and Case Keenum).

To his credit, while he wasn’t exactly at Tom Brady level, he was much better than Cassel and Keenum. Unfortunately for McCarron, he still wasn’t quite good enough to “Wally-Pipp” Dalton, and his desire to start recently found its way into the news once again.

“You’re like, ‘I watch these guys play on Sunday. I know I can play with those guys,'” McCarron told SiriusXM NFL Radio Wednesday. “You always want to start. God has a plan; everything happens for a reason. I’ve just got to stay my course, stay the process and everything’s going to work out.”

“I watch these guys play on Sunday. I know I can play with those guys”

Careful, AJ. Those are the kind of comments that land you a job in Cleveland. And while it doesn’t sound like McCarron is necessarily planning a secret insurrection against Dalton, it’s clear what he’s after. But considering Dalton’s firm hold on the starting QB spot, McCarron may have to look elsewhere for a starting gig.

With McCarron currently under contract until 2018, the Bengals have the ambitious quarterback seemingly locked into a backup role for quite a while. Should the Bengals attempt to trade him?

It depends on what they could get in return.

In a revolution that probably made Jason Campbell regret retiring, the idea of the competent backup quarterback was truly appreciated, for the first time last year. Brock Osweiler and AJ McCarron were heavily praised for their play as fill-ins. The eleven teams without serviceable backups paid the price with their postseason aspirations.

Even as a second-string player, McCarron now has an inherent value to the Bengals. Would another team’s desire for a starter yield enough in return?

Credit: Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports /

Determining McCarron’s value on the open market is tough. Everyone’s first thought is to compare him to Osweiler, who signed a lucrative $72 million deal with the Texans after a half-season in which he averaged 260 yards, 1.42 TDs, and .85 INTs. For reference, McCarron averaged 209 yards, 1.5 TDs, and .5 INTs.

Unfortunately, comparing these quarterbacks is inconsequential. Osweiler was signed to a deal in a competitive free agency market; McCarron would have to be traded. His value is definitely lower than Osweiler’s, but is it still high enough for a trade to be worth it?

While exchanging McCarron for a player to fill a key spot on defense sounds nice, multi-year contracts and salary caps have almost completely wiped player-for-player deals from the league. The Bengals would likely be limited to acquiring draft picks.

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Cincinnati can rule out obtaining an early round pick for him. Any team that needs a quarterback would much rather draft and develop a young passer from the first few rounds than trade for a 25 year-old with only five games under his belt. A third round pick is likely the best the Bengals could get.

Despite the Bengals’ stellar drafts in recent years, trading away their playoff insurance policy for a third round pick isn’t worth it. The type of guy available in Round 3 generally won’t have the season-altering potential McCarron possesses.

The Bengals shouldn’t trade their backup quarterback. If McCarron wants to start, he’ll have to find a way to do it in Cincinnati.

Next: The Way Of The Bengal

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