Bengals To Use Franchise Tag On A.J. Green?

A.J. Green‘s mid-career off year is two games away from becoming a reality, and the 31-year-old wide receiver is on the verge of free agency for the first time. But the Bengals may not be willing to let him hit the market.

The Bengals and Green are far apart in contract negotiations, Tyler Dragon of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports, adding that the team plans to use the franchise tag on the seven-time Pro Bowler if this value gulf persists into March. The franchise tag window opens Feb. 25 and closes March 10.

Earlier this season, Green voiced opposition to a tag scenario. The 2020 wide receiver market does not feature a host of high-profile names. Green would seemingly be in position to cash in, despite his health issues in recent years. The parties were not close on an extension before Green’s summer ankle injury, though the ninth-year veteran did say he wanted another long-term contract that would allow him to finish his career in Cincinnati.

Should the Bengals tag Green, it would be expected to cost just more than $18MM, Joel Corry of CBS Sports projects. That would be quite the obligation for a team that’s seen its top skill-position weapon miss much of the past two seasons. Green is in the final weeks of a four-year, $60MM extension agreed to back in 2015. Should Green miss the full 2019 season, he will have been sidelined for 23 of Cincinnati’s past 24 games.

Still, Green has proven to be one of the best players in franchise history when healthy. He is the only wideout in NFL history to make the Pro Bowl in his first seven seasons. Green’s most recent full season, 2017, ended with 75 receptions for 1,078 yards and eight touchdowns.

Mike Brown discussed a Green extension earlier this year, before the season-altering injury, adding that a health setback would affect the receiver’s market. With that reality forming, this could be an interesting impasse — one that will affect the 2020 free agent class.

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