Everything that went wrong in the botched Browns-Bengals swap of AJ McCarron

The 2017 NFL trade deadline was just about the wildest rendition of the annual snoozefest yet. We saw a potential franchise quarterback swap conferences and coasts, we saw the Panthers deal a former first-round pick, we saw a guy with three 200-yard rushing games get dealt to the best team in the NFL ... and we saw the Browns magically botch a trade for a quarterback with a division rival.

The Browns and Bengals had a deal in place for Cincinnati to ship AJ McCarron to the Browns in exchange for a second- and third-round pick, of which the Browns have plenty. Everyone thought the deal was done, including McCarron.

That's because a deal WAS done. The Bengals and Browns shook hands (metaphorically) on it and went to work making sure everything was filed with the league.

Only, according to accounts from reporters on both sides of the beat, the Browns completely dropped the ball on the situation. 

According to Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain-Dealer, an assistant in the front office with the Browns sent the Bengals an email around 3:54 p.m. ET, basically asking what the deal on the paperwork and the trade was. But because it didn't come from GM Sashi Brown, the Bengals basically missed the email. 

The Bengals spokesperson said the email the Bengals received from the Browns, which came at about 3:54 p.m., did not come directly from Browns Executive Vice President of Football Operations Sashi Brown, and therefore it was not immediately seen.

That wasn't the biggest problem, though. The biggest problem was that the Browns did not send any paperwork into the NFL with signatures from Cleveland on it, instead simply sending the paperwork with signatures from Cleveland to Cincinnati and assuming that the Bengals would handle forwarding the signed paperwork to the league ahead of the 4 p.m. ET deadline.

From Cabot's story:

The Bengals quickly sent the necessary documents to the NFL -- and copied the Browns -- but the Browns only sent theirs to the Bengals and not to the NFL.

A source with knowledge of the Browns' sequence of events told cleveland.com that they sent their signed document to the Bengals with the expectation that the Bengals would also sign it and forward it on to the league.

A source also told cleveland.com that if the Browns had simply copied the NFL on the document they sent to the Bengals, the trade would have gone through.

So, basically, a clerical error on the Browns part derailed a trade for a quarterback. Suffice to say, neither team is happy and Marvin Lewis does not sound thrilled with the Browns handling of the situation.

But there is some more interesting news out of Cincinnati, where Jim Owczarki reports for the Cincinnati Enquirer that the Bengals believe the Browns screwed up the paperwork because the front office and coaching staff aren't on the same page when it comes to evaluating McCarron.

Multiple sources The Enquirer spoke to felt the delay, and ultimate improper handling of the final moments before 4 p.m., was due to a lack of a consensus between the personnel department and coaching staff in Cleveland regarding McCarron.

Ummm, that's worse than a clerical error. That means the Browns started talking to the Bengals about compensation for a player and the acquisition of a quarterback -- a pretty critical piece to the old Cleveland puzzle! -- without the front office and coaching staff being in lockstep. That's the No. 1 sign of organizational dysfunction.

Presumably it would be Hue Jackson, who previously coached McCarron as his offensive coordinator, that loves the quarterback, but it would be odd that Brown and the front office would even let the trade talks progress that far without actually squashing them in the first place.

The whole thing is an unmitigated disaster for the Browns, a flat-out embarrassing situation whereby Cleveland once again managed to screw up an attempt to acquire a quarterback. The Browns are lost at sea once again and the only option is to blow up the battleship.

If you want to find any bright side to this whole thing, consider that the Browns were about to give up more for McCarron than the Patriots wanted in exchange for Jimmy Garoppolo

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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