The leading one: The Browns mishandled the paperwork because they really didn’t want the deal to be done. It makes sense. They were going to give a second- and third-round pick to win maybe two or three of the last eight games with McCarron.
The other theory: The Browns are just inept.
That’s pure speculation, but what coach Marvin Lewis said later seemed to give a little credence to the deal purposely botched.
“All you have to do is notify the league office that you’re making the deal,” Lewis said. “That’s an easy thing. We spoke to the person in there and (said) our thing is there.”
The deal was reportedly nixed because the Browns did not get the papers in by the 4 p.m. Tuesday deadline. Had Lewis ever heard of that happening?
“I don’t think I’ve ever heard of one,” Lewis said. “Obviously on draft day, there’s a little more urgency because if you don’t get it in, the next team can go ahead. They may take your player.”
“But in this case . . . enough said.”
McCarron was getting his son ready for Halloween when his agent called to say he had been traded. He found out a little later via Twitter that deal had been botched.
“You get a call that you’re going somewhere,” McCarron said. “You’re trying to figure out what’s happening. Then you’re not.”
McCarron, who will be a free agent at season’s end, did not expect to be traded. When he heard he had been, he was happy.
“I was excited,” he said. “I’m a big competitor. I wanted my opportunity.”
Even after the trade was nixed, McCarron was told it might happen.
“My agent told me they were appealing,” McCarron said. “I got a call later on saying that it didn’t. It got rejected.”
McCarron was glad the Bengals were willing to part with him to give him the chance to start.
“Today, I want to thank Mr. (Mike) Brown personally, just because I admire that he was going to give the opportunity to start and play somewhere,” McCarron said. “I appreciate that of him. He’s been an unbelievable owner for my experience here.”
But Brown wasn’t exactly giving McCarron away. Quarterback Jimmy Garoloppo only netted the New England Patriots a second-round pick in a trade Monday night.
“AJ’s a great kid,” Lewis said. “He’s a true team player. He’s a leader. He’s a leader on this football team. That’s why we thought he was such a valuable asset. The man upstairs was very clear about that, about how we felt about him. That’s the key.”
Lewis and McCarron talked in the aftermath of the deal/no deal Tuesday.
“It’s not a good situation,” Lewis said. “AJ is a very valuable member of this team. I told him that after this stuff yesterday. Frankly, I was relieved, so I don’t have to go through the gymnastics of the next step.”
McCarron took it all well.
“I’m not angry about anything,” he 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.”
McCarron’s contention is he’s a unrestricted free agent. The Bengals contend he’s a restricted free agent because he did not spend enough time on the roster his rookie year because of a non-football injury. If he’s a restricted free agent, the Bengals could get compensation.
So this could work out better for McCarron in the long run. Going to the Browns has been career suicide for a lot quarterbacks. But in the immediate aftermath, he was a little dazed by it all.
“I've learned in the NFL anything is possible,” he said. “It's odd. But it is what it is.”
John Fay is a freelance sports columnist; this column represents his opinion. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.