Editor's note: Tony Grossi covers the Cleveland Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR.
Thursday could be a deciding day in the pursuit of a veteran quarterback by the Browns.
An arbitrator is scheduled to rule whether Cincinnati Bengals backup AJ McCarron should be considered an unrestricted free agent (McCarron’s position) or a restricted free agent (the Bengals’ position).
Hanging in the balance is whether the Bengals can command a draft pick in compensation from any team that may sign McCarron in free agency.
If McCarron is ruled to be restricted, the Bengals can tender him the designated contract figure that would guarantee them a second-round draft pick from a team that would sign him.
In October, the Browns were willing to trade one of their three second-round picks for McCarron. But if McCarron is deemed a restricted free agent and the Browns signed him to an offer sheet, they would be required to give up their original second-round pick – No. 33 overall, the most valuable of their three.
Would that price be too steep for a quarterback who has started just four games in four NFL seasons?
In any case, the arbitration would clarify McCarron’s place on the ESPN Cleveland Browns Quarterback Tracker. For now, he holds the No. 1 spot for the third consecutive week.
On our tracker of veteran quarterbacks potentially pursued by the Browns, each QB is assigned a point total out of a possible 100.
1. AJ McCarron, Cincinnati Bengals ……………………………. 24 points.
How much clout does coach Hue Jackson have in choosing his quarterback with the new John Dorsey regime? We’re about to find out. While Jackson favored McCarron in October, the question is whether the former Bengal is still the best available fit now that the offense will be run by a new coordinator, former Steelers OC Todd Haley?
Appropriately experienced to fill the role of future mentor, he broke out with 11 wins in 2017 – two more than he’d produced in five previous NFL seasons. He may receive offers from more playoff-ready teams. But if the market is cool to him, the Browns could be attractive to him.
It’s doubtful the NFL champs would part with their surprise Super Bowl MVP in March because franchise starter Carson Wentz’s availability won’t be known until August, at the earliest. Dorsey signed him in Kansas City in 2016 as a backup, then cut him the next year.
He wants to return to the Jets. If the Jets don’t make a run at a younger veteran, he makes as much sense as a mentor to them as he would to the Browns.
The 49ers’ signing of Jimmy Garoppolo to a $27.5 million average bumps Cousins’ probable asking price to close to $30 million per year. On top of that, Cousins says he wants a chance to win.
He has one win as a starter in eight NFL seasons. The one win was with Dorsey in Kansas City. He is 5-11. He is 31.
When the Bills make him a free agent next month, he will appeal to coaches that favor ball security over most everything else. He is good when playing with a lead, but mediocre in making up a deficit.
8. Sam Bradford, Minnesota Vikings ……………… 3 points.
Accurate and strong-armed when healthy, his knee problems may have reached the point of impairing his ability to command a multi-year contract.
9. Teddy Bridgewater, Minnesota Vikings ………….. 2 points.
Nobody knows if he can salvage the promising career he had in the works before a devastating knee injury in 2016. He will have to “prove it” in a one-year deal.
Haley advocated the drafting of the big-bodied Jones by Pittsburgh in 2013. But Jones is under contract through 2018, and a trade of a quarterback from one rival to the other hasn’t happened since 1968. The Steelers haven’t forgotten or forgiven themelves for swapping Bill Nelsen for Dick Shiner