BEREA — The Browns didn’t beat the trade deadline.
They were flattened by it.
The Browns, in their eternal search for a quarterback, had agreed to a trade for Cincinnati Bengals backup AJ McCarron on Tuesday afternoon, but the proper paperwork wasn’t submitted to the league office in time for the transaction to be approved, according to a league spokesman.
So the trade didn’t happen.
The Browns and Bengals reached agreement on the deal minutes before the 4 o’clock deadline, a league source told The Chronicle-Telegram. The Browns sent their signed document to the Bengals, but the Bengals sent the league the document with only their signature, the source said.
There wasn’t enough time to fix the error, and the deadline passed without the necessary document reaching the league office.
A spokeswoman for the Bengals initially contradicted the source, saying the Bengals didn’t receive any paperwork from the Browns, and that the league office confirmed it received the Bengals’ paperwork before the deadline but didn’t hear from the Browns until after the deadline. On Wednesday morning, the spokeswoman clarified by saying the Bengals missed the email from the Browns on Tuesday but had located it Wednesday.
Profootballtalk.com, citing multiple league sources, reported a trade becomes official only when both teams independently communicate the trade to the league office. The Browns failed to do so before the deadline.
Head of football operations Sashi Brown leads the Cleveland front office.
The Cincinnati Enquirer reported the Browns would’ve given up second- and third-round draft picks in 2018 in exchange for McCarron.
The Browns didn’t make any trades before the deadline despite talks with multiple teams throughout the afternoon. And despite recent repeated pleas from coach Hue Jackson to improve the roster.
The Browns and Bengals still have never traded with each other. Cincinnati owner Mike Brown is the son of Paul Brown, who founded both franchises but was fired from the Browns by then-owner Art Modell after the 1962 season.
The failed attempt Tuesday came less than 24 hours after the New England Patriots traded quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to the San Francisco 49ers for a 2018 second-round pick. The Browns had been interested in Garoppolo for months but weren’t involved Monday.
The trade attempt for McCarron also comes in the midst of the worst stretch in franchise history — 0-8 this year and 1-23 in the two years under Brown and Jackson — reports of conflict between the front office and coaching staff and speculation that both factions will be fired during or after the season.
Mccarron, 27, was a fifth-round pick in 2014 out of Alabama and has been the backup to Andy Dalton for the last three years.
McCarron (6-foot-3, 220 pounds) has started four of 10 games, going 2-1 in the 2015 regular season and losing a playoff game. He’s completed 66.4 percent for 854 yards with six touchdowns, two interceptions, 12 sacks and a 97.1 rating in the regular season, and was 23-for-41 (56 percent) for 212 yards, a touchdown, an interception and a 68.3 rating in the playoff loss to Pittsburgh.
He hasn’t thrown a pass this season.
Jackson has great familiarity with McCarron because he was Cincinnati’s offensive coordinator in 2014-15.
With no McCarron, rookie DeShone Kizer remains the starting quarterback heading into the bye week. He’s started seven games but been benched three times.
He’s last in the league with 11 interceptions, a 52.1 completion percentage and a 51.1 rating.
Failing to execute the trade is the latest example of the Browns fumbling quarterback decisions.
They traded out of the No. 2 pick in 2016, giving up the chance to take Carson Wentz. This year they traded the No. 12 pick, bypassing Deshaun Watson.
They share the NFL lead with 19 touchdown passes apiece for Philadelphia and Houston, while the Cleveland quarterbacks have combined for seven touchdowns and 17 interceptions.