Conflicting reports of Patriots' interest in AJ McCarron as Tom Brady's backup

Free agency hasn't even technically started and things have already turned into a total nightmare for former Bengals quarterback AJ McCarron

If McCarron was hoping to get starting-QB-caliber money during free agency, well, that's probably not going to happen, and that's because most of the top-dollar contracts have already been given away. With Kirk Cousins headed to the Vikings, Case Keenum headed to the Broncos, Teddy Bridgewater headed to the Jets, Sam Bradford headed to the Cardinals and Drew Brees re-signing with the Saints, there's not much of a starting-QB market left for McCarron. 

However, if he's willing to continue his career as a backup quarterback, then it sounds like there's at least one team that would definitely be interested in signing McCarron: The New England Patriots

According to WEEI radio in Boston, the Patriots have made a contract offer to McCarron, although it's not clear how big or small the offer might be. It's also not clear if McCarron is considering the offer and that's because if he signs in New England, he'd basically have a zero percent chance of becoming the starter due to the fact that Tom Brady plans on playing until he's 45. Also, according to the Boston Globe, McCarron never actually received an offer. 

However, if the Patriots are in the market for a backup quarterback it wouldn't be that surprising. After all, they did trade away two quarterbacks -- Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett -- during an eight-week span starting in September

The Patriots' current backup quarterback is Brian Hoyer, who signed as a free agent shortly after the Garoppolo trade went down. With New England in the market for a backup, it's not crazy to think that Bill Belichick asked his good friend Nick Saban if the Patriots should go after McCarron, who won three national titles during his five years at Alabama. 

Although McCarron is probably hoping to be paid like a starter, signing with the Patriots wouldn't be the worst thing in the world. McCarron would go from backing up a quarterback who's never won a playoff game (Andy Dalton) to a quarterback who's won five Super Bowls (Brady). 

Whatever happens, it's starting to look like McCarron doesn't have a ton of options, which is bad news when you consider that free agency hasn't even started yet. Although there's been a legal tampering period going on since Monday, free agent players can't start signing new contracts until 4 p.m. on Wednesday.  

If the Patriots didn't make an offer to McCarron, then it wouldn't be a surprise to see them draft a potential backup for Tom Brady in April. 

CBS Sports Writer

John Breech has been at CBS Sports since July 2011 and currently spends most of his time writing about the NFL. He's believed to be one of only three people in the world who thinks that Andy Dalton will... Full Bio

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