NFL quarterback wins grievance, becomes free agent
Any NFL team that’s in the market for a veteran quarterback now have an additional option.
A.J. McCarron won his grievance against the Cincinnati Bengals on Wednesday. The victory means McCarron is now an unrestricted free agent and can field offers from any team.
The grievance centered around how the Bengals classified McCarron’s roster status after the quarterback was drafted out of the University of Alabama in 2014.
Just before the start of training camp that season, the Bengals placed McCarron on the non-football injury list — or NFI. The team believed a shoulder injury suffered by McCarron had happened at some point away from football — either during his time in college or somewhere between his last game at Alabama and the start of training camp with Cincinnati.
By being placed on the NFI list, he was ineligible to participate in training camp. The Bengals then placed him on the NFI list again prior to the start of the season, which meant he could not be active for at least the first six games of the regular season.
Before being activated from the NFI list, McCarron would have to practice for three weeks before the Bengals would have to decide whether to add him to the active roster, place him on the season-ending injured reserve list or outright release him.
McCarron was finally added to the Bengals roster in early December, with only three weeks remaining in his rookie season.
That was significant in terms of McCarron’s contract status. A player must be on an active roster for at least six games to accrue a year of service toward unrestricted free agency.
Because McCarron was on the active roster for only three games in 2014, he didn’t reach the six-game threshold.
Thus, when the 2017 season ended, McCarron officially had only three years of service. At that point, he would be a restricted free agent, meaning the Bengals had the right to match any offer from another team.
But when a team extends an offer to a restricted free agent and the offer isn’t matched by the player’s original team, the first team has to give up a draft pick in exchange for signing the player. Teams that have to forfeit a draft pick are sometimes less inclined to pursue restricted free agents.
In filing the grievance, McCarron claimed the Bengals should not have placed him on the NFI list. He said the Bengals knew of his medical history before the draft. He also passed a post-draft physical.
By winning his grievance, McCarron gets credit for the 2014 season, meaning he now has four years of service in the league and can be declared an unrestricted free agent.
McCarron joins Washington’s Kirk Cousins and Minnesota’s Sam Bradford as veteran quarterbacks who can sign as unrestricted free agents. Teams can’t sign players to free-agent contracts until the league’s new year starts in March.
While Cousins and Bradford are relatively known quantities in the NFL, McCarron is still a relatively unknown. He has appeared in only 11 games, with three starts, in his three seasons with the Bengals. He’s thrown six touchdowns in just 133 pass attempts.
McCarron’s time with Cincinnati almost came to an end earlier this season. The Cleveland Browns reportedly had the framework for a deal to acquire McCarron in a trade with Cincinnati, but failed to send the required paperwork to the NFL office before the league’s trade deadline expired, which negated the trade.
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