A.J. Green

A.J. Green Very Unlikely To Be Back With Bengals?

When he last spoke about his future, A.J. Green made it clear he knew there was a chance he was playing his last games in Cincinnati. It sounds like it’s no longer just a chance, it’s a foregone conclusion.

While going through the Bengals’ upcoming free agent class, Paul Dehner Jr. of The Athletic writes that there’s just a ‘one percent’ chance of Green coming back. “The hope for all involved is Green can resurrect his remarkable career. It just won’t be in Cincinnati,” he writes. This isn’t exactly a shock, as this has been the direction things have been trending, and there was even some speculation back in October that he wanted to be traded although the wideout denied it.

If it is indeed the end, the fourth overall pick of the 2011 draft had an incredible run in Cincy. He’s set all sorts of franchise records while making seven Pro Bowls and three All-Pro teams. He had a reduced role this past season, catching only 47 passes for 523 yards in 16 games. Now 32, it’ll be interesting to see what kind of interest he gets on the open market.

Although he doesn’t treat it with nearly as much certainty, Dehner also doesn’t think cornerback William Jackson III is too likely to return. He thinks one or more teams will be willing to give him a big contract and “the Bengals won’t be one of them.” Jackson has started at least 13 games in each of the past three seasons, and had 11 pass breakups in 2020.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC Notes: Watt, Green, Chiefs, Gordon, Pats

Vocal about his frustration with the Texans‘ situation, J.J. Watt is on track to play in 16 games for just second time in the past five seasons. Although a midseason report tabbed the future Hall of Fame defensive lineman as a “virtual lock” to be traded in the offseason, Watt has one season remaining on his Texans deal. He acknowledged his contract — a six-year, $100MM 2014 pact that has since been lapped by a few younger D-linemen — will need to be addressed in 2021.

There’s a whole lot of unknowns in that situation. We’ll see what happens,” Watt said, via Fox 26’s Mark Berman (video link). “I don’t have any guarantees left in my contact, so something’s got to happen one way or another. I’m not sure. There’s too many unknowns.”

Thanks to the Laremy Tunsil deal, the Texans do not have first- or second-round picks in next year’s draft. Despite Watt’s contributions, Houston’s defense ranks near the bottom of the NFL. And the team does not have many long-term cornerstones on offense beyond Tunsil or Deshaun Watson. Watt, 31, would be an interesting 2021 trade chip — should the Texans attempt to collect assets for the three-time Defensive Player of the Year — but the prospect of a new Watt contract in a year when the cap is set to decline would seemingly affect his market.

Here is the latest from the AFC heading into Week 17:

  • Another superstar from the 2011 draft class, A.J. Green may be set for his final Bengals game Sunday. The former perennial Pro Bowler has seen his role in Cincinnati’s offense reduced, despite playing on the franchise tag, and acknowledged Sunday might be it for him in western Ohio. “If this is my last game, I had an unbelievable 10 years here,” Green said (via ESPN.com’s Ben Baby, on Twitter) Thursday. The Bengals did not let Green test free agency this year, which understandably led to frustration from the veteran, and 2021 figures to be a crowded marketplace for wideouts. Green, 32, stayed healthy this year but has just 47 receptions for 523 yards — a distant third among Bengals.
  • The Broncos will have a decision to make at running back soon. They have Phillip Lindsay looming as an RFA, and Melvin Gordon‘s DUI arrest has him facing a three-game suspension — one that would stand to void the remaining guarantees on his two-year, $16MM deal. “Hopefully I did enough for them to want to keep me here,” Gordon said, via 9News’ Mike Klis. Gordon has rushed for 893 yards in 14 games but has a career-low 141 receiving yards.
  • A back injury ended Mitchell Schwartz‘s iron-man streak at 134 games; the Chiefs‘ All-Pro right tackle has been out since Week 6. Andy Reid said the veteran right tackle is making progress but was vague on a return timeline, per the Kansas City Star’s Herbie Teope (on Twitter). Another report, via the Star’s Sam Mellinger (on Twitter), indicated Schwartz is not expected to return this season. Schwartz, 31, has long been one of the NFL’s top right tackles. His absence would obviously make a Chiefs repeat championship more difficult.
  • Brandon Bolden was one of the eight Patriots to opt out because of COVID-19 concerns, but the longtime backup running back/special-teamer plans to play in 2021. The 30-year-old back tweeted he wants to return next season, though it is not certain if the Patriots will bring him back. Thanks to Bolden’s 2020 money tolling, he is under contract next year on a $1.3MM base salary.

AFC North Notes: Green, Mayfield, Big Ben

During the Bengals’ loss to the Cowboys on Sunday, receiver A.J. Green moved within one touchdown of Chad Johnson for the franchise’s all-time record. But while he was chasing that milestone on the field, his comments after the game might be more significant. Speaking to the media, Green made it “very clear” there’s a good chance he won’t be back in Cincy next year, Ben Baby of ESPN.com writes. “I love my time here,” Green said. “Who knows what is going to happen? I will be ready for anything and be excited to get back to playing football whether it is here or somewhere else.” It’s a stark shift in tone for Green, who has always insisted he envisioned himself playing his entire career with one team.

Green is in the midst of a disappointing season that was supposed to be a triumphant comeback for the former All-Pro after he missed all of 2019 with an ankle injury. Cincinnati placed the franchise tag on him this offseason to buy some time on making a long-term decision, but his production obviously hasn’t matched his price tag so far. There was speculation earlier this year that he wanted to be traded after his usage declined, although he publicly denied that. So far on the year Green has caught only 41 of 88 targets, racking up 419 yards and two touchdowns. Baby notes that Green’s tone has “drastically changed,” and it looks like we might be nearing the end of what was a legendary run with the Bengals. For many years in a row, the fourth overall pick of the 2011 draft was one of the best wideouts in the game. Assuming he does explore his options on the open market this spring, at 32 and coming off multiple recent injury-plagued years, he likely won’t be getting any sort of big contract.

Here’s more from the AFC North:

  • Baker Mayfield had himself a night on Monday Night Football, even as the Browns fell to the Ravens. The former first overall pick has really turned it on recently, and Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com wrote even before last night’s game that the young quarterback was “playing himself into blockbuster extension territory in the offseason.” Kay Cabot writes that the coaching staff in Cleveland has grown convinced as the season has gone on that they’ve got their quarterback of the future, and that if he closes the season strong “he can expect to receive the blockbuster extension in the offseason.” It’s been a nice turnaround for the Oklahoma product, as his struggles early on in the year had many questioning whether he was the long-term answer for Kevin Stefanski. With his performances the last few weeks, he’s silenced most of the critics. He has only one interception in his last six games, and has the Browns on the verge of clinching a playoff berth. Mayfield is still under team control for two more seasons after this one, and Kay Cabot writes that at the very least the Browns will be exercising the fifth-year option in his contract for 2022 this offseason. It sounds like he’s about to get a whole lot more than that though.
  • Mayfield isn’t the only member of the Browns looking for an extension. Receiver Rashard Higgins is playing out the final year of his deal, and while Kay Cabot writes Cleveland will “likely” re-sign him, she also says nothing is imminent on that front. While she notes that players like Higgins are in a holding pattern as teams wait to see what the 2021 salary cap will look like, she also says he “will likely be wrapped up long-term.” The 2016 fifth-round pick had a huge touchdown on Monday night, and now has at least 65 yards in three of his past four games. His playing time has fluctuated through multiple different coaching staffs during his time with the team, and he had only four catches in ten games last year. But when given the opportunity he has usually delivered, like when he had 572 yards and four scores in 13 games in 2018. Now, it sounds like he might finally get rewarded after playing 2020 on a deal that paid him only $910K.
  • The Steelers have now lost back to back games, and Ben Roethlisberger has struggled mightily in both of them. Even before Sunday’s loss to the Bills, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports wrote that sources told him Roethlisberger’s lingering knee injury has “become a source of greater concern” within the organization. Interestingly, La Canfora reports that Roethlisberger’s close relationship with offensive coordinator Randy Fitchner “has been the cause of some worry” within the team. La Canfora notes that Big Ben is granted wide authority to change calls as he sees fit, and the implication seems to be that he has been checking out of runs too much and dictating the short passing game offense that has begun struggling mightily in recent weeks. Roethlisberger has now gone four straight games averaging 5.8 yards per attempt or fewer. The ground game still wasn’t able to get anything going against Buffalo, and if Roethlisberger’s knee issue turns out to be more serious than we’ve realized, this Steelers offense could be in permanent trouble. This will be a situation to monitor as the regular season draws to a close.

Bengals Looking To Trade Carlos Dunlap

This won’t come as much of a surprise given the tension between player and team, but the Bengals have had active trade talks surrounding defensive end Carlos Dunlap, as Ian Rapoport of NFL.com writes. In fact, Dunlap may be deactivated for this afternoon’s game against the Browns so that he doesn’t suffer an injury that would scuttle a potential deal.

Dunlap started Cincinnati’s first four games of the season and played in 75% of the team’s snaps in its Week 4 win over the Jaguars. But he did not start in the Bengals’ Week 5 loss to the Ravens — the first time in years he had not started a game — and he ultimately played in just 46% of the defensive snaps.

The 31-year-old took issue with the fact that head coach Zac Taylor did not talk to him personally about his demotion, and he recently posted the Bengals’ edge rotations on social media, saying “I don’t got time for this” (via Paul Dehner Jr. of The Athletic on Twitter). With Cincinnati in rebuild mode, it would not be surprising to see them move on from their unhappy pass rusher.

Of course, plenty of pundits and executives believed the Bengals should have been sellers at last year’s trade deadline, but the team elected to stand pat and did not make any moves to add to its draft capital. Jonathan Jones of CBS Sports reports that Cincinnati may do the same this year, with one NFC executive saying the team’s asking prices on its veteran trade candidates are too high.

Jones’ CBS Sports colleague, Jason La Canfora, is also hearing from rival execs that the Bengals’ have unrealistic demands, though there is a sense that a trade is likelier to get done this year than it was last year. Dunlap, as Rapoport suggests, may have already played his last snap as a Bengal, but RapSheet says Geno Atkins and A.J. Green are probably not going anywhere.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bengals’ A.J. Green: I Don’t Want To Be Traded

A.J. Green left Sunday’s loss to the Ravens early with a hamstring injury, and he walked off the field showing clear frustration. Some viewers thought they saw Green tell an assistant that the Bengals should trade him if they won’t use him properly, but the wide receiver says that’s not the case. 

I’m just happy to be back out there,” said Green (Twitter link via Ben Baby of ESPN.com). “I know it’s going to come over time. . . . I don’t want them to force me anything.”

There was tension between Green and the Bengals this offseason as the veteran lobbied for an extension. But, after he missed the entire year with injury, the Bengals decided to table discussions with the 32-year-old. Instead, they used the one-year, ~$18MM tag to keep him for 2020. The two sides cannot resume talks until after the season is over.

Before last year, Green was a Pro Bowler in each of his first seven NFL seasons. And, in every season in which he’s played at least 13 games, he’s topped 1,000 yards receiving. So far this year, he has just 14 grabs for 119 yards through five games. Now, it sounds like he’ll be out for a while as he nurses a hamstring issue, but he hopes to remain in Cincinnati beyond the deadline.

The trade deadline falls a bit later than usual this year. Teams will have up until 4pm ET/3pm CT on Nov. 3 – which is also Election Day — to make deals.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Minor NFL Transactions: 9/26/20

Here are Saturday’s minor moves:

Arizona Cardinals

Buffalo Bills

Cincinnati Bengals

Cleveland Browns

Denver Broncos

Green Bay Packers

Indianapolis Colts

Las Vegas Raiders

New England Patriots

New Orleans Saints

New York Giants

New York Jets

Philadelphia Eagles

San Francisco 49ers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tennessee Titans

Washington Football Team

Browns Get Down To 53

The Browns became the second team after the Panthers to officially announce their initial 53-man roster, waiving 24 players to get down. Here’s everybody they cut, with a recap on some notables at the bottom:

One of the biggest names on this list is Thomas, who the Browns drafted 67th overall in 2018. He barely played as a rookie, but he started eight games and had four sacks last year. The Browns are loaded along the defensive line, so it would’ve been tough for him to find snaps. He’s a definite practice squad candidate assuming he doesn’t get claimed.

Taylor flashed some potential with the Titans and had 466 yards with Tennessee in 2018, but failed to make a dent after getting traded to Cleveland last year. Ratley is another receiver who got cut, and he started three games each of the past two years. The 2018 sixth-rounder from Texas A&M had 200 yards and a touchdown last season.

Gilbert spent last season as Baker Mayfield‘s backup after he lit it up in the ill-fated AAF, but he was made expendable by the offseason addition of Case Keenum. He should get another shot elsewhere or on the practice squad.

AFC North Notes: Green, Browns, Ravens

In addition to the lengthy foot rehab in which A.J. Green participated recently, the veteran Bengals wide receiver missed more than a week of training camp because of a hamstring issue. Green entered Wednesday having not practice since August 17, but the 10th-year receiver was back in action this afternoon, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer’s Tyler Dragon (on Twitter). While Green was wearing a sleeve on his left leg, he was working in pads for the Bengals for the first time since last year. The 32-year-old wideout missed all of last year but did practice at points during the season. The Bengals placed the franchise tag on their longtime standout, who is set to play the 2020 season on a $17.9MM salary.

Here is the latest from the AFC North:

  • Already down rookie safety Grant Delpit for the season, the Browns will be without their other LSU cog in the secondary for an undetermined time frame. Greedy Williams is dealing with a shoulder injury, and new Browns HC Kevin Stefanski has yet to indicate that the first-string cornerback will be able to return soon, per Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com. Williams missed four games last season but started all 12 in which he played.
  • The Browns should be expected to explore an Earl Thomas addition, per Yahoo.com’s Charles Robinson (on Twitter), but the team may not be a frontrunner. Cleveland lost Delpit but has offseason acquisitions Karl Joseph and Andrew Sendejo in the fold.
  • On the subject of Thomas, his subtraction from the Ravens secondary will indeed bump third-year safety DeShon Elliott into the starting lineup. John Harbaugh confirmed the former sixth-round pick will receive the first crack at replacing Thomas alongside Chuck Clark, Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic notes (subscription required). This will be an interesting promotion, with Elliott having only played in six games during his two-year career. Elliott landed on Baltimore’s IR in both 2018 and ’19, missing all of his rookie season and the latter portion of last season.
  • The quartet of kickers the Browns worked out last week does not represent an immediate threat to Austin Seibert‘s job. Instead, the team is forming an emergency list due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. Of course, other teams can and have adjusted this list. The Patriots signed one of the kickers the Browns previously brought in, Nick Folk, earlier this week. The Browns also worked out Cody Parkey, Kai Forbath and Matthew McCrane.

A.J. Green Signs Franchise Tender

Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green has signed his franchise tender, the team announced. With that, the soon-to-be 32-year-old will report to training camp on-time later this month.

It seemed unlikely that the two sides would agree to a long-term deal prior to Wednesday’s deadline given Green’s age and his recent injury history. But Cincinnati was not about to let him walk in free agency this year, so the club slapped the seven-time Pro Bowler with the franchise tag.

Green had previously expressed that he was not a big fan of the tag, but he also said he would not hold out if he did not get the multi-year pact that he was seeking. However, the fact that he signed the tender is still notable. Prior to signing it, he could have skipped training camp and the preseason and still earned his full salary, and there was recent speculation that the Bengals might consider rescinding the tag because of how much it costs (roughly $18MM) and the current financial climate. Considering Green’s abilities and the fact that the team will have rookie QB Joe Burrow under center, rescinding the tag never felt like a real possibility, but now both sides know they will be together from training camp forward.

Paul Dehner Jr. of The Athletic says the Bengals still want to sign Green long-term (Twitter link). While they of course cannot negotiate again until after the 2020 campaign, Dehner expects the team to make a “hard push” for a new deal at season’s end if Green looks anything like his old self.

And the interest, apparently, is mutual. Green said he wants to play for another four seasons and retire as a Bengal (Twitter link via Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com). If he does, Green will surpass Chad Johnson to become the team’s all-time leader in receptions, receiving yards, and receiving TDs. He is currently trailing Johnson in all three categories, but not by much.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC North Notes: OBJ, Green, Andrews, Steelers

It’s been almost three years since Odell Beckham Jr. fractured his left ankle, and while the star wideout has yet to return to the Pro Bowl, he’s managed to put up back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. However, in an alternative universe, OBJ may have decided to hang up his cleats following that 2017 campaign.

Appearing alongside Cam Newton, Todd Gurley, and Victor Cruz on his YouTube series The Bigger Picture, Beckham admitted that he almost retired following the injury.

“I said this in college, I said, ‘I fear the day that they make this game a business and not what I love,’” Beckham said. “And when I seen that for the first time after breaking my ankle, like I thought about like not playing no more. Like this is not really it for me because they’ve ruined the game of football for me a little bit.”

OBJ didn’t elaborate on what the Giants did to upset him during that 2017 campaign, although it’s worth noting that the receiver had rushed back from a preseason ankle sprain. The veteran’s tenure with New York ended last offseason when he was traded to the Browns, and the 27-year-old proceeded to appear in all 16 games for the first time since 2016.

Let’s check out some more notes from around the AFC North…

  • When we learned yesterday that A.J. Green wasn’t going to sign an extension with the Bengals, it was made clear that he’ll willingly play the 2020 season under the franchise tag. Of course, that could be temporary lip service; since the wideout hasn’t signed the tender, he could skip training camp and preseason and still earn his full salary. However, as Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com notes, until Green officially signs the tender, the Bengals have the ability to rescind the franchise tag. This would save the organization almost $18MM, and while it’d be a somewhat unprecedented move, Florio notes that “in an unprecedented year, it’s impossible to rule anything out.”
  • The Steelers have made some changes to their coaching staff. As Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.com passes along, Blaine Stewart is now the assistant wide receivers coach and Denzel Martin is now the assistant outside linebackers coach. The duo had previously served as coaching assistants. The organization also shook up their scouting department, promoting Chidi Iwuoma from BLESTO scout to a college scouting position and Dennis MacInnis from scouting intern to BLESTO scout.
  • While Ravens tight end Mark Andrews has Type 1 diabetes, he made it clear that he won’t be opting out of the 2020 season due to health concerns. “We’ve got a big year coming up,” Andrews said (via Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com). “I want to be able to do a lot of things, and … just being able to help this team win is exciting for me.” The former third-rounder earned his first Pro Bowl nod last season after hauling in 64 receptions for 852 yards and 10 touchdowns.