If AJ McCarron has his way, he'll be an unrestricted free agent this offseason. The Bengals' backup quarterback has filed a grievance against the team and the ultimate goal is to hit unrestricted free agency, according to a report from ESPN's Adam Schefter.
The Bengals and Browns agreed on a McCarron trade prior to the deadline earlier this week, but the Browns did not call the NFL in time to gain approval for the deal, so the league stopped the trade from going through. But that's not the only subject of the grievance McCarron filed.
Per Schefter's report, the grievance dates to his rookie season.
McCarron's grievance dates to his rookie season in 2014, when the Bengals drafted him in the fifth round. McCarron initially passed his post-draft physical, but the Bengals placed him on the non-football injury list (NFI) at the start of training camp due to a shoulder issue.
In McCarron's opinion, he was healthy enough to come off the NFI list during training camp, which would have counted his rookie year toward free agency. But Cincinnati didn't add McCarron to its active roster until Dec. 9, meaning it was too late for him to accrue a season toward his free agency.
Under terms of the collective bargaining agreement, a player receives an accrued season that counts toward free agency if he was eligible to play in six regular-season games.
Because of these actions, McCarron is currently set to be a restricted free agent this offseason, which could limit his earning potential. The Bengals seem likely to place a first-round tender on McCarron rather than an original round tender, making it more difficult for a team to sign him away from Cincinnati in free agency. Becoming an unrestricted free agent would enable him to open up the market for his services to more teams, and thus increase his leverage.
McCarron's grievance will be heard by an arbitrator, who will ultimately determine his restricted or unrestricted status for this coming offseason.