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The Browns Almost Traded for A.J. McCarron, but Someone Bungled the Deal

Did Cleveland forget to confirm the trade? Did Cincinnati send the wrong document? Either way, a mistake saved the Browns from themselves.

Cincinnati Bengals v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

For the first time in recent memory, the NFL trade deadline has actually been exciting! Over the past few days, the 49ers landed their quarterback of the future in Jimmy Garoppolo, the 7-1 Eagles bolstered their backfield by adding Jay Ajayi, the Seahawks beefed up Russell Wilson’s protection by trading for Duane Brown, and the Bills stole Kelvin Benjamin from the Panthers. Nearly every team in the NFL got in on the action, and a typically mundane day on the league’s calendar was legitimately fun!

Well, unless you’re a Browns fan.

DeShone Kizer, the Browns’ current starter under center, has been, uh … well, he leads the NFL in interceptions, and his team is winless. So they could use a change. Their answer was just 250 miles southwest.

Enter A.J. McCarron.

As we cruised into the 4 p.m. ET deadline Tuesday, phones across the Ohio River Basin buzzed.

Drats. The 0-8 Browns tried and failed to trade for their guy. McCarron is a former Alabama standout. The quarterback has been riding the pine since he was drafted in 2014, and has seen time in only nine games over the past three seasons. Still, he’s a young quarterback with at least the illusion of potential. It would have been great for the Browns, who passed on both Carson Wentz and Deshaun Watson, to finally get someone they had faith in under center. It’s a shame they weren’t able to agree on a deal.

… Except they did. Minutes after his first tweet, ESPN’s Adam Schefter clarified his statement. The Bengals and Browns agreed on a trade at 3:55 p.m., five minutes before the deadline.

Initial reports said the Bengals called the deal in, likely overjoyed they were able to get something (reportedly second- and third-round picks in the 2018 draft) in return for a bench warmer. The Browns, well, they were a little busy.

Reports seemed to indicate that the Browns not only celebrated landing a player with three career starts under his belt, but celebrated so aggressively that they forgot to confirm that the trade was happening with the league. They reportedly requested the NFL let the late trade go through, but the league said no.

But that might not be the case. It was later reported that the Browns sent a signed trade document to the Bengals, who then sent the league a different document signed only by Cincinnati. Both teams would have had to sign the document for the trade to be confirmed, and the deadline passed before the franchise could right its wrong, according to’s Mary Kay Cabot.

This is, incredibly, not the first time a major sports franchise has lost a player due to issues with punctuality. In 2013, the Broncos lost All-Pro defensive end Elvis Dumervil because the proper paperwork wasn’t faxed to the league offices before the cutoff time. Two years later, Real Madrid missed out on bringing Spanish goalkeeper David de Gea back home from Manchester United at the transfer deadline because of a fax machine mishap soon after the clock struck 12.

In retrospect, those mistakes worked out. The Broncos won a Super Bowl without Dumervil, and Real Madrid has a pair of Champions League titles since missing on De Gea. They rallied from their letdowns and rose to the top of their respective sports. I guess what I’m saying is the Browns will use their bye week to regroup, win their last eight games, and sneak into the playoffs.

Say hello to your Super Bowl champion Cleveland Browns.