Bengals receiver A.J. Green missed the entire 2019 campaign due to an ankle injury, and the last time he suited up for a game was in Week 13 of the 2018 regular season. Given his age (he will be 32 by the time the 2020 regular gets underway) and recent injury history, there has been plenty of speculation that the rebuilding Cincinnati outfit might move on from its franchise icon this offseason.
But that’s not necessarily the case. On Wednesday, Bengals director of player personnel Duke Tobin told reporters, including Tyler Dragon of the Cincinnati Enquirer, that he plans on having Green back in 2020 (Twitter link). Tobin said “all options are on the table,” which presumably means that the franchise tag and a multiyear pact are in play. Green has previously indicated that he is opposed to the franchise tag, though he did concede that he would not engage in a season-long holdout if he is hit with the tag.
The tag value for wideouts checks in at a whopping $18.5MM, a lot of coin for an aging player who has missed 23 of his team’s last 24 games. A long-term deal would also be quite costly, because with a fairly light free agent receiver class — which gets a lot lighter if Amari Cooper and Emmanuel Sanders re-up with their current teams — Green would likely still command top-dollar on the open market.
On the other hand, a receiver of Green’s caliber would be a major boon to the team’s offense, especially if the Bengals draft Joe Burrow and put him under center right away. The two sides were recently said to be far apart on contract talks, so this is shaping up to be one of this offseason’s most prominent storylines.
Tobin also touched on quarterback Andy Dalton and running back Joe Mixon. The consensus seems to be that the Bengals will look to trade Dalton or cut him if the right deal comes along, but there is also a possibility that he returns as a bridge to Burrow, as Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com writes. As with Green, Tobin said he has not ruled out any options when it comes to Dalton.
Mixon, meanwhile, is eligible for an extension for the first time this offseason, and Tobin plans to explore that possibility. Despite being one of the few dangerous skill position players on the team in 2019, Mixon went over 1,100 yards rushing for the second straight season, and he certainly looks the part of a long-term feature back.
Tobin suggested that the Bengals may be more active in the free agent market than they historically have been, but if they are earmarking a significant amount of money for Mixon and Green, they may not be able to spend as freely as they might like. But they should have enough cap space to make a few key signings, especially if they part ways with Dalton.
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