The Bengals and A.J. Green could be heading toward a franchise tag arrangement next March, according to Paul Dehner Jr., of the Cincinnati Enquirer.
“Our problem is what you just said, the money is so big,” Bengals owner Mike Brown told Dehner Jr. “We are going to have a finite cap room with a handful of players who are going to be eligible for free agency. We are going to have to see what we can get done with that. We don’t know yet where we are going to end up but we have tried to prepare ourselves for it some by holding back on cap expenditures this year which can be rolled over into next year.”
A four-time Pro Bowler who has offered four-digit receiving-yardage totals in each of his four seasons, Green may not have a clear market as of now, with top-five wideout peers Dez Bryant and Demaryius Thomas being tagged this month.
Brown expressed obvious desire to strike a long-term accord with the Bengals’ top 2016 free agent priority, per Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com, but Green’s deal will affect the team’s ability to pay other ’16 free agents. Starters Andrew Whitworth, Leon Hall, Andre Smith and Reggie Nelson are among the lineup bastions with expiring contracts this season, and Andy Dalton‘s cap number vaults from $9M+ this season to more than $13MM in 2016. Excluding Smith, however, each of those will-be free agents are over 30.
Green will make $10.17MM this season on his fifth-year option and will almost certainly play in Cincinnati in 2016 on either a long-term deal or tag.
Brown hasn’t shown any urgency to give Marvin Lewis another one-year extension which would keep the coach out of lame-duck status this season, with Lewis joining the aforementioned contingent with expiring contracts. Lewis, who signed a one-year extension last March to avoid this expiring-deal scenario, is the second-longest-tenured coach in the league behind Bill Belichick.
“We have a good relationship. I hope that relationship goes forward into the future. But we aren’t at the future yet,” Brown told Dehrer Jr. “We don’t have to make this decision until after this year. He doesn’t have to make this decision until next year. Right now he’s under contract, and he’s fulfilling it as we would expect and he knows he should.”
The Bengals’ much-publicized playoff win drought extended to four straight years under Lewis, which may explain the owner’s reluctance to commit to giving him a potential 14th season (via Dehner Jr., on Twitter).
Other iteams from Brown, via Hobson: they haven’t made a decision on offering fifth-year options to 2012 first-rounders Dre Kirkpatrick and Kevin Zeitler; A.J. McCarron will get the chance to become Dalton’s understudy with the third quarterback likely coming through the draft, and Brown won’t vote for replay expansion (Twitter link) this week at the owners’ meetings.