Bengals QB Requested Release From Cincinnati: Report

Quarterback AJ McCarron requests release from Bengals to sign in UFL.

Getty Quarterback AJ McCarron requested to be released from the Cincinnati Bengals.

The Cincinnati Bengals announced the release of veteran quarterback AJ McCarron on February 14 — which came as a surprise to some. Others expected this move to occur, however, including NFL reporter Howard Balzer.

“QB AJ McCarron asked to be released by the Bengals (team announced it today) so he can re-sign with the UFL’s St. Louis Battlehawks,” Balzer informed on X. He also noted that McCarron played for the XFL version of the Battlehawks last season, and that he’s “hearing that he will officially sign Thursday [February 15].”

Pro Football Newsroom insider James Larsen confirmed this report from the UFL side on February 14.

“DEVELOPING,” he began. “QB AJ McCarron is planning to sign back to the St. Louis Battlehawks, source says. A.J. was officially released by the Bengals today, and I’m told his return to the @XFLBattlehawks could be as soon as this week. Huge for the city. QB1 back in action.”

Later, Balzer explained McCarron’s UFL timeline. “His contract officially terminated [on February 14] at 4 pm ET,” he relayed. “UFL players report to training camp Feb. 24, conditioning tests Feb. 26, first practices Feb. 27. Season begins March 30.”

Bengals Down to 2 QBs, Although AJ McCarron Could Re-Sign at Later Date

McCarron’s participation in the UFL season does not preclude him from returning to the Bengals at a later date — assuming health.

That lack of a clear safety net does make exclusive rights free agent Jake Browning even more valuable though. Browning is now the only quarterback on the roster behind Joe Burrow.

Perhaps head coach Zac Taylor acts quickly to add a new QB3 while McCarron is off competing in the UFL, but it will likely take that player some time to get up to speed. Browning was never thought to be available in 2024, but it’s even less probable that Cincy considers trading him now.

Remember, despite entering the league with the Minnesota Vikings in 2019, last year was Browning’s first accrued season as an NFL player. What does this mean?

“To accrue a season, a player must have been on a team’s roster for six or more regular-season games during that year,” Pro Football Network outlined on March 9, 2023. “However, the player does not need to be active for games to accrue a season. Players on the injured reserve and the physically unable to perform list also get credit toward an accrued season.”

That NFL rule gives the Bengals sole rights to Browning in free agency until he accrues at least three valid seasons in the league — which would then make him a “restricted” free agent. An unfortunate reality for the 2023 breakout.

Bengals QB Jake Browning Believes He’s Earned a Starting Job, Acknowledges He Has No ‘Control’ Over Situation

At the conclusion of the 2023 campaign on January 7, Browning was bold in stating that he believes he’s “established that [he’s] capable of being a starter in the NFL.”

“It’s obviously a weird situation where I feel like I’m one of the top 32 quarterbacks in the world,” he continued. “And I just so happen to be on a roster with a guy that’s proven he’s a top five quarterback in the world.”

At the time, Browning concluded that while he has “no idea” what the future holds, nor does he have any “control,” he thinks he’ll be “proud” of his 2023 tape.

“The goal was to go to the playoffs, and we didn’t,” Browning added after Week 18, “so that’s pretty motivating going into the offseason too.”

The Bengals are expected to enter the 2024 campaign with Burrow and Browning as the top two quarterbacks on the depth chart.

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