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SI’s King could see free agent QB A.J. McCarron landing with Cardinals

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback AJ McCarron stands on the sidelines in the second half of an NFL football game against the Baltimore Ravens, Sunday, Sept. 10, 2017, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Frank Victores)

The quarterback-rich draft and free agent market has made the NFL’s carousel of signal-callers a topic of intrigue this offseason.

In the heart of that discussion are the Arizona Cardinals, who are looking not only for the replacement to starter Carson Palmer but a complete rebuild of the quarterback room under first-year coach Steve Wilks.

Predicting the domino effect across the NFL that begins with likely free agent Kirk Cousins isn’t easy. But Sports Illustrated’s Peter King is giving it a try, knowing full well he will probably be wrong.

King believes Arizona lands the latest quarterback on the market, former Cincinnati Bengals backup A.J. McCarron, who recently won a grievance filed against the Bengals to reach free agency.

McCarron hasn’t seen a lot of action in his four-year career, but he did complete 79 of 119 attempts with six touchdowns to two interceptions in 2015. Last year, the Bengals and Browns agreed upon a trade sending McCarron to Cleveland, but it wasn’t filed in time to beat the trade deadline.

That, and the fact that McCarron worked under former Bengals offensive coordinator and current Browns head coach Hue Jackson, leads many to believe McCarron will still land in Cleveland.

King, however, doesn’t see it.

This would, of course, break Hue Jackson’s heart. But I just think the alternatives for McCarron are these: Go to Cleveland, and risk the Browns drafting a quarterback high in the first round, and risk being in the same place he was in Cincinnati, behind Andy Dalton, for the next three or four years … or go to Arizona (or another spot that won’t draft a passer high) and be handed the starting job on a team with a playoff defense. Not a very tough choice in my mind.

King has the Browns signing former Minnesota Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford and drafting USC’s Sam Darnold, but he also mentioned that Bradford landing in the desert instead wouldn’t be a surprise.

And, by the way, King lists Arizona second on his list that’s in order of teams most in need of a quarterback. He has the Cardinals behind the Denver Broncos, who he believes could be the likely frontrunners in the Cousins sweepstakes.

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