Jets passed on AJ McCarron last year; could this time be different?

The quarterback landscape was altered this week with the news that AJ McCarron won his grievance against the Cincinnati Bengals and will be an unrestricted free agent. This week's mailbag question focuses on how McCarron's sudden availability could impact the New York Jets.

@RichCimini: At the start of free agency last year, the Jets received a call from the Bengals, who offered McCarron in a trade. The Jets gave it some thought but nixed the proposal because they were focused on free agents and didn't want to surrender compensation in a trade. As everybody knows, they wound up signing Josh McCown -- a terrific free-agent move.

New year, same outcome?

This time, the circumstances are different because McCarron is a free man, no strings attached. Based on what we know from last year, I have to think he'd be a fallback option if the Jets fail to sign Kirk Cousins. I don't know where McCarron falls in the pecking order of Plan B candidates, but I can tell you one thing: Personally, I'd take McCown over McCarron.

You know what you're getting with McCown; McCarron is a mystery man.

McCarron showed promise in three 2015 starts (a 2-1 record, with four touchdown passes and no interceptions), but I think it's a stretch to say he's the next Jimmy Garoppolo. Heck, I'm not even sure Garoppolo deserves to be put on that kind of pedestal. After all, he has had only seven starts, the past five of which were meaningless games. At least McCarron has started a playoff game. Should've won it, too, except a couple of his numbskull teammates let him down.

I talked to a scout who believes McCarron's ceiling is that of a solid game manager. (He has topped the 200-yard mark only once.) Is that worth a three-year, $45 million contract, including $18.5 million guaranteed? That's what Mike Glennon got last year as a free agent, and you can bet someone will pay McCarron at least that much. As for the Jets, it makes more financial sense to re-up with McCown, who probably will command less than $12 million on a one-year deal.

Neither McCown nor McCarron is a surefire answer to the long-term quarterback problem. Obviously, McCarron has more growth potential because he'll be only 28, but his arrival wouldn't preclude the Jets from taking a quarterback with the sixth pick. Remember, the Chicago Bears drafted Mitchell Trubisky after paying Glennon. If you're going to go that route, you might as well stick with the grizzled vet. My hunch is the Jets feel that way, too.