In 2020, the reality is that an A.J. Green is one of the more under the radar free agent players this offseason. The star Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver is not getting as much hype as other free agents but with Tom Brady‘s free agency dominating the NFL discourse in media outlets, it’s understandable. Currently, it’s being reported that the Bengals will use the franchise tag to retain Green for another year. The franchise tag for Green would cost the Bengals approximately 18.5 million dollars. However, Green’s free agency is significant and shouldn’t go overlooked.
A.J. Green Free Agent Profile
Green has been mentioned as one of the top receivers in the game since beginning his career in 2011. He has eclipsed 1,000 yards in each season with the exception of 2016 and 2018, both of which were shortened by injuries. Green will turn 32 before the start of the 2020 NFL season and foot injuries are beginning to take a toll.
The Bengals’ main focus has to be to surround the presumed number one draft pick Joe Burrow with as much support as possible. If Green is able to return to the field in 2020 fully healthy, the Bengals offense has some actual potential.
Making Sense of the Bengals
The Bengals franchise faces as much criticism as any in the NFL for their “Bungling” ways of operation. Does it make sense for the Bengals to tender the franchise tag for Green? I think there is a strong argument against it. Without Green, the Bengals have a decent receiving core of Tyler Boyd and John Ross. Additionally, Alex Erickson, as a slot receiver, and Auden Tate, as a red-zone target are more than serviceable.
Again the offensive liability falls back to the offensive line. They are ranked in the bottom third of the NFL (twenty-fifth) in adjusted line yards and twenty-first in pass protection. The Bengals would be wise to let Green go in free agency and focus their spending on protecting the future in Burrow. Green won’t come cheap to a team looking to make a push to the playoffs. That being said, the Bengals would gain a compensatory pick, perhaps as high as a third-round pick in the 2021 draft.
The New England Patriots are sorely lacking an option outside of Julian Edelman. Signing Green would also go a long way to convincing Brady to stay with the Patriots. It would be a bold statement to the league that the Patriots aren’t quite ready to relinquish their hold on the AFC East.
The Patriots’ first priority is to Tom Brady. But signing Green is not without risks based on his health history. The Pats recently missed on Mohamed Sanu. While a good receiver, he’s not a number one. Will N’keal Harry take a step forward in his sophomore year? He’ll have every opportunity. But does head coach Bill Belichick have the patience with the dynasty window closing? If the Bengals keep Green from hitting the open market, it wouldn’t surprise me if Belichick looks at making a trade for a wide receiver with a little more tread left on the tires. Perhaps he could target Stefon Diggs, as well.
The Eagles wide receiver corps is a mess and Green would be a huge addition. Alshon Jeffery has had as much or more difficulty staying on the field. The Athletic’s Connor Hughes reported that Jeffery, “would welcome a change of scenery.” If all things were equal, I think this would make perfect sense.
All signs are pointing to the Eagles going through the draft to upgrade the receiver position. Additionally, they don’t need another receiver on the roster that has a difficult time staying healthy. Additionally, Jeffery’s contract is a sticking point for the Eagles, to the tune of 26 million in dead cap space.
If the Raiders can lure Brady to Vegas, it might be on the heels of signing a big-time wide receiver like Green. If the Raiders have designs on making a run at the playoffs in their inaugural year in Vegas, this move would make sense. The formula for beating the Kansas City Chiefs is to have the ability to keep up with them offensively, then be able to make a defensive stop or two. Adding both Green and Brady could do the trick.
The Raiders as a team are fairly young. And, with picks 12 and 19 in the first round, are in the midst of developing a nice young team. They could use both picks to upgrade two positional needs with a wide receiver and linebacker. It’s also not out of the question that they package those picks to move up in the first round to draft a replacement for Derek Carr.
Stefon Diggs has put out the vibe that he’s unhappy in Minnesota. If the Vikings feel that he’s becoming a problem in the locker room, perhaps they look for a suitor in a trade. Green has always been a quiet leader in Cincinnati and his presence could bring a calm to quarterback Kirk Cousins with not having to force-feed a disgruntled receiver. Adding a veteran like Green would be outstanding for a team looking to get over the hump in the playoffs and push for super bowl contention.
Diggs is 26 years old and under contract through 2023. Teams just don’t look to unload players in their prime like that. While at the NFL Combine, Vikings general manager Rick Speilman stated, “There is no reason to anticipate that Stefon Diggs is not going to be a Minnesota Viking.” The Vikings are definitely a long shot for Green, but stranger things have happened.
The 2020 NFL draft is deep at the wide receiver position, as many as twelve could come off the board in the first two rounds based on projections. Green is the type of player that could have an impact on the draft regarding a team’s ability to contend for the playoffs. With that being said, the Bengals are on the clock in more ways than one.
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