CINCINNATI | AJ McCarron was getting his son ready to Trick-or-Treat as Ace Ventura when his agent called with shocking news: The Bengals were trading the quarterback to the Cleveland Browns.
Then came another jolt: The trade fell through because paperwork wasn’t filed with the NFL office in time.
McCarron was still processing the whirlwind events Wednesday, a day after a paperwork snafu meant he’d stay in Cincinnati as Andy Dalton’s backup. The AFC North rivals agreed to the trade shortly before the 4 p.m. deadline. The Bengals say they filed their paperwork on the deal, holding up their end of the bargain.
“All you have to do is notify the league office you’re making a deal and that’s an easy thing, which we spoke to a person in there,” coach Marvin Lewis said Wednesday.
McCarron doesn’t understand how the trade was botched.
“There’s no telling,” McCarron said. “I’m lost like everybody else.”
He’ll be on the Bengals sideline Sunday when Cincinnati (3-4) plays at Jacksonville (4-3). McCarron hasn’t played this season even though Dalton has been limited by a sprained left ankle for a couple of games.
The Bengals’ agreement to trade him was an indication he’ll soon get a chance to vie for a starting job somewhere instead of remaining a backup in Cincinnati.
The Bengals had been reluctant to trade the two-time national champion from Alabama, who is in the final year of his contract. McCarron proved his value after Dalton broke the thumb on his passing hand late in the 2015 season.
McCarron started the last three games, leading the Bengals to the postseason, and had them in position to win a first-round playoff game against the Steelers before Vontaze Burfict’s hit to Antonio Brown’s head moved Pittsburgh in range for a winning field goal.
McCarron was excited initially about the chance to be reunited in Cleveland with coach Hue Jackson, who was the offensive coordinator in Cincinnati. The Browns’ inability to complete the trade was the latest failure by a franchise that can’t find its footing.
Cleveland hasn’t been able to settle on a quarterback or stick with a plan. The Browns are 0-8 after going 1-15 in Jackson’s first season.
The Browns are on their bye week and declined comment on the trade snafu.
McCarron missed most of his rookie season with a sore shoulder. The Bengals contend that leaves him a restricted free agent after this season. McCarron thinks he should be an unrestricted free agent. The dispute will be settled in the offseason.
“I’m not angry about anything,” McCarron said. “I’m not upset. It feels good to be wanted by the team you’re on, by another team. I’m just enjoying it and when the offseason comes, however the contract dispute works out, we’ll go from there.”
Dalton has taken a lot of hits behind a struggling offensive line. Third-string quarterback Jeff Driskel is recovering from a broken hand. Lewis is glad to keep McCarron, although he regrets how the quarterback was caught in the middle of a failed trade.
“I think it’s not a good situation,” Lewis said. “AJ’s a valuable member of this team. I told him that yesterday after everything, and frankly I was relieved so I don’t have to go through the gymnastics of the next step.”
McCarron described a chaotic scene at his home after getting a call from his agent about the trade agreement.
McCarron’s family dressed as characters from Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. McCarron wore a Dan Marino shirt — the Dolphins are part of the movie — and his mother dressed in a dolphin costume.
“So you got all that going on and the trade,” McCarron said. “My mom’s bouncing around the house in a dolphin suit. The dog’s going crazy. So it was interesting.”
He was getting a lot of jokes from Bengals teammates over his close call with a trade.
“I’ve had a couple guys in here ask me to send some stuff and remind me to hit the send button,” McCarron said. “That’s probably one of the best ones. I don’t know what’s going on.”