Cleveland Browns: Will Hue Jackson get his happily ever after?
By Joel W. Cade
The Cleveland Browns quarterback options just got bigger with Cincinnati Bengals quarter A.J. McCarron set to hit the free agent market.
Valentine’s Day came a day late for Cleveland Browns head coach Hue Jackson.
The love story between Jackson and Cincinnati Bengals quarterback A.J. McCarron took another step toward consummation on Thursday when McCarron was granted unrestricted free agency by an independent arbitrator.
The love story began last fall when, depending on how one sees it, the Browns front office either saved the organization from a stupid trade or they bungled the agreed upon trade for McCarron. Either way, former Browns executive vice president of football operations Sashi Brown saved the Browns some draft picks by not executing the trade. Now the Browns can sign McCarron with no loss of draft picks.
Related: Browns now have another free agent option at quarterback
Now McCarron and Jackson have a chance at their happily ever after.
However, such a reunion may not be a good thing for the Browns, even though the team is definitely in the quarterback market. With the first pick in a quarterback loaded draft, it would take a lot for the Browns to pass on a quarterback. It would certainly take more than signing McCarron.
No matter how much Jackson likes him, McCarron remains an unknown at the quarterback position. Yes, he had a great run filling in for injured quarterback Andy Dalton in 2015. Without a few less than intelligent penalties, McCarron may have even led the Bengals to their first playoff victory under head coach Marvin Lewis.
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But McCarron was drafted in the fifth round for a reason. At the time he was coming off shoulder surgery. Plus there were questions about his ability to throw the deep ball accurately, as well as concerns about his arm strength in general.
His draft profile from NFL.com raises the concern that McCarron will need a good offensive line and playmakers around him to be successful. In short, he was projected as a game manager who could protect the ball and not lose the game. This is not a skill to be looked down upon, but it simply means he is not a quarterback who will lift the play of those around him.
There were even reports that one of the reasons McCarron fell to the fifth round in the 2014 NFL draft was because he rubbed teams “the wrong way.” There were also concerns regarding his leadership ability and if his teammates at Alabama liked him.
These same scouts were probably left wondering why his teammates didn’t attend his 21st birthday party. It is unclear if he found the $100 bill at the back of the playbook and sent it back to the team. It is certainly safe to say no NFL general manager wrote on a sticky note, “A.J. McCarron no matter what” heading to the 2014 NFL Draft.
But Jackson may be slipping that note under Browns general manager John Dorsey’s office door as this is being written.
Jackson has reason to like McCarron. McCarron is the path of least resistance to victories on the football field this fall. McCarron knows Jackson’s system, has NFL playing experience (although limited) and comes ready to start for a team in need of stability at the quarterback position.
Further, the Browns would make sense for McCarron if he is truly interested in playing time, as reported by Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com. McCarron would potentially arrive in Cleveland as the projected starter who is familiar with the offense and a lead the until it is ready to seriously compete in a few years.
It is rumored that the Browns front office is already considering this scenario.
Now that the Browns have lost out on the Alex Smith derby, is it time for the Browns to bring in McCarron? The scenario would include McCarron serving as a bridge to whomever the Browns select early in the 2018 NFL Draft, a role that would be ideal for McCarron.
This may be how Dorsey sees the situation, but is it how Jackson would see it? Would Jackson use McCarron as a bridge? Or would he stand by his man regardless of how the other quarterbacks are developing?
Next: Browns mock draft if they sign a QB in free agency
Jackson’s dream of happily ever after may be coming to Cleveland in McCarron as his starting quarterback, but will it turn into a nightmare for the Browns instead?