AJ McCarron tried to stay busy Thursday.

He got a workout in, working on his dropbacks and getting in some throws. He went to lunch with his cousin. Anything to stay out of the house as he anxiously waited to hear if he would be allowed to hit the free agent market in March, or if he would once again have to wait for the Cincinnati Bengals to determine his status.

And after an entire day of running around, he thought he'd have to wait for at least one more. So he settled into his home theater room just before 5 p.m. ET when his lawyer called.

"Can you hear me?"


"You won!"

McCarron didn't believe him in that initial moment. He was stunned. Relieved. Thankful. And now, excited beyond words for a future that is now in his hands.

An independent arbitrator ruled that the 27-year-old won his grievance against the Bengals regarding their decision to place him on the non-football injury (NFI) list at the start of 2014.

He will now become an unrestricted free agent when the new league year begins at 4 p.m. ET on March 14.

"It's just a blessing," he said. "I was going to be blessed either way because you're still in the league, you're still being able to play the game for a living, but it's just awesome just to be free now and to hopefully get that opportunity and be able to compete somewhere. That's all I've ever wanted. I'm just super excited. Just really excited that I get that opportunity now and I just can't wait to just showcase what I can do and show a team that I can lead a team and win ballgames."

During his rookie year, the Bengals felt McCarron suffered a right shoulder injury away from the team and they put him on NFI. He didn’t practice until late November of that season and wasn’t active to play until early December. As a result, he did not accrue a season toward free agency and was considered a restricted free agent.