The veteran offseason QB plot thickened Thursday, when Cincinnati Bengals passer A.J. McCarron won his grievance with the club and was officially declared an unrestricted free agent, per reports.
At the root of the 27-year-old quarterback's case against the Bengals was their placing him on the non-football injury list with a shoulder injury to begin his rookie 2014 season. That move potentially would've earned Cincinnati an additional season of team control over the former Alabama standout, though an independent arbitrator ruled it wasn't a necessary move and McCarron will be allowed to test the open market next month.
McCarron last started a game for the Bengals in the wild-card round loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers following the 2015 season. Now, he'll join an unusually deep veteran QB market that includes headliners Drew Brees, Kirk Cousins and Case Keenum, but also will have other intriguing players with untapped potential such as McCarron and, likely soon, Tyrod Taylor.
So where does McCarron land since he's unlikely to remain with his current team? The Cleveland Browns are the obvious favorite, as they attempted to trade for him at the deadline last season, only to have former boss Sashi Brown and Co. botch the process of filing paperwork with the league, nixing the trade.
Browns coach Hue Jackson was the offensive coordinator in Cincinnati when McCarron received his brief NFL starting audition in place of an injured Andy Dalton. It wasn't bad, either: McCarron logged a 6:2 touchdown-interception ratio and 97.1 rating in seven regular-season appearances (three starts) in 2015.
It's worth noting that, while we know how Jackson feels about McCarron, it's unclear how new GM John Dorsey views McCarron. But the Bengals remain committed to Dalton, meaning McCarron — who won a pair of national titles during his time in Tuscaloosa — could get his long awaited starting opportunity somewhere.
Beyond the expected influx of veteran signal-callers this offseason, there's also a high number of front offices that have recently changed decision makers and have immediate quarterback needs, if not veterans nearing the end of the line. In addition to Cleveland, that would include the New York Giants and the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Then there are clubs which haven't made changes at the top of their front office but surely seek changes atop their QB depth charts, like the Denver Broncos, New York Jets and Arizona Cardinals.
Indeed, McCarron appeared to win his grievance at the right time. Whether a club deems him as potential starter material and draws up a contract reflective of that view, we should find out just less than a month from now.