AJ McCarron wins grievance against Bengals, to become unrestricted free agent

The free-agent quarterback market already featured several big names and now it has another, with Bengals backup quarterback AJ McCarron having won his grievance against the Bengals according to multiple reports, immediately making him an unrestricted free agent when the new league year begins.

McCarron filed the grievance against the Bengals based on his 2014 season, when McCarron was placed on the non-football injury (NFI) list by the Bengals despite passing his post-draft physical. Because of the decision by the Bengals, McCarron did not accrue a full season and was expected to be a restricted free agent this offseason; he wasn't added to the active roster until Dec. 9. 

Which makes the victory for McCarron huge: he is now an unrestricted free agent, and the Bengals do not have the rights to match anyone's offer. 

The expectation was that the Bengals, if McCarron was a restricted free agent, would place a first-round tender on McCarron, thereby maximizing the amount of value they would get in return for the quarterback.

Recall that the Bengals were involved in a situation where they attempted to trade McCarron earlier this year to the Browns, but things went very sideways from the Cleveland side of things and the deal fell apart.

In other words, McCarron has a lot of value to other teams out on the open market, and as such, he is now in a very good position in terms of long-term financial gain.

The Bengals could still theoretically franchise tag McCarron, if they were interested in keeping him. But that won't be cheap, and they still have to worry about their starting quarterback, Andy Dalton

As an even bigger bonus for McCarron, he could end up recouping salary from 2014, according to a report from Ian Rapoport of NFL Media. 

So McCarron should get paid by the Bengals immediately and, if they end up not using the tag on him, get massively paid. Jimmy Garoppolo was the best quarterback prospect on the market, but the 49ers locked him up. Now it's Kirk Cousins (who will be paid somewhere in the range of $150 million), Drew Brees (who is expected to make a ton of money with the Saints) and McCarron, who is set to reap massive benefits for winning this grievance. 

CBS Sports Senior Writer

Will Brinson joined CBS Sports in 2010 and enters his seventh season covering the NFL for CBS. He previously wrote for FanHouse along with myriad other Internet sites. A North Carolina native who lives... Full Bio

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