A.J. Green

Cardinals Re-Sign WR A.J. Green

After bouncing back to contribute for the first playoff-qualifying Cardinals team in six years, A.J. Green is staying put. The 12th-year veteran agreed to re-sign with the Cards on a one-year deal, according to the team. Aaron Wilson of Pro Football Network reports that the contract is worth up to $3.5MM, with $3MM of that total guaranteed (Twitter link). Green can earn the remaining $500K in per-game active roster bonuses, and the deal also includes two voidable years for cap purposes.

This will give Green a chance to play an age-34 season; the former perennial Pro Bowler will turn 34 in July. Green is coming off a season in which he played 16 games, helping a Cardinals club that was without DeAndre Hopkins for much of the year. With Christian Kirk now out of the picture, Green again stands to be a key factor for Arizona’s Hopkins-led receiving corps.

Although Green’s days of 1,000-yard seasons appear to have passed, the 6-foot-4 wideout did re-emerge after a rough close to his Bengals career. After missing the 2019 season, Green posted just 523 receiving yards in 2020. This led him to the desert, but the former top-five pick caught 54 passes for 848 yards and three touchdowns. The Georgia alum posted two 100-yard games last season.

Green’s historic run of Pro Bowls to start his career (seven) stopped after the 2017 season, with injuries causing him to miss 23 games at the end of the 2010s. And he was not connected to any other teams in free agency this offseason. Thus, it is certainly interesting to see this Green-Cards partnership continue for another year.

The Cards might still be interested in wideout help, considering they will have two 30-somethings at receiver this year — Hopkins turns 30 in June — they still have Rondale Moore and Antoine Wesley rostered. Former second-round pick Andy Isabella remains on the team, but the Cardinals gave him permission to seek a trade last month. Green’s injury past and Hopkins’ 2021 setbacks should still make this a relative need, but the former’s return should certainly help the Kyler Murray-centered offense.

Cardinals, TE Zach Ertz Closing In On Deal

After acquiring tight end Zach Ertz in a trade with the Eagles in mid-October of last year, the Cardinals are finalizing a new multi-year deal for the nine-year veteran, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network. The three-year deal is set to keep the 31-year-old among the top-10 highest-paid tight ends in the NFL. 

Ertz is a three-time Pro Bowler who set the NFL-record for single-season receptions for a tight end in 2018 with 116 catches, which trailed only Saints’ receiver Michael Thomas for the league lead among all pass-catchers. Ertz was consistently productive in Philadelphia, recording five-straight seasons with at least 800 receiving yards.

After taking a back seat role to the Eagles’ younger tight end Dallas Goedert, the Cardinals made the move to acquire Ertz and watched him thrive in the new system. Ertz’s 11 games in Arizona in 2021 showed far more production than the 11 games he played in Philadelphia the year prior. With wide receivers Christian Kirk and A.J. Green set to hit the free agent market this week, locking down their tight end was a must.

The three-year deal will be worth $31.65MM with a guaranteed amount of $17.5MM. The annual average value of $10.55MM ranks 10th among NFL tight ends, just below David Njoku, Mike Gesicki, and Dalton Schultz, who got franchise tagged for $10.93MM. With this deal Ertz is now off the crowded tight end market, along with the three who were tagged. Remaining options for those looking for tight ends are C.J. Uzomah, Robert Tonyan, Evan Engram, and Will Dissly.

Cards’ Owner Bidwill On Kyler Murray

With everything starting to appear copacetic between the Cardinals and quarterback Kyler Murray, the team’s owner, Michael Bidwill, addressed the 24-year-old’s future in Arizona, as reported by Jeremy Cluff of The Arizona Republic. As Murray heads into the fourth year of his rookie contract, Bidwill discussed the possibility for an extension. 

“The window has just opened for a contract extension. Certainly he’s part of our long-term plan,” Bidwill said of Murray. “Most of the big ones are done further down the road, I think Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen were done in the summer time. Others were done in the summer time. So we’ve got time, but they’re complicated.”

In respect to the turmoil surrounding the quarterback, Bidwill claimed he and Murray have had “good conversations non-stop.”

While expressing the desire to give Murray an extension out of his rookie contract, Bidwill also acknowledged that the team has other priorities, as well, namely bringing back some key free agents. He recently expressed his wishes to retain two-time All-Pro linebacker Chandler Jones, which Jones appeared scoff at. Newcomers to the desert, running back James Conner and tight end Zach Ertz, have both made it known that they would be more than happy to consider re-signing.

Other Cardinals headed to free agency include running back Chase Edmonds, wide receiver Christian Kirk, veteran wideout A.J. Green, and tight end Maxx Williams. While the Cardinals’ owner is looking forward to finding a way to keep Murray long-term, he and his front office have some work to do in the meantime.

Minor NFL Transactions: 11/11/21

Today’s minor NFL transactions:

Arizona Cardinals

Baltimore Ravens

Buffalo Bills

Los Angeles Chargers

New England Patriots

New Orleans Saints

New York Jets

Minor NFL Transactions: 11/3/21

Today’s minor moves:

Arizona Cardinals

Dallas Cowboys

Houston Texans

Los Angeles Rams

Minnesota Vikings

New York Giants

San Francisco 49ers

Cardinals To Sign A.J. Green

The Cardinals’ already impressive receiving corp just added another big name. Arizona has agreed to terms on a deal with A.J. Green, a source told Ian Rapoport of NFL Network (Twitter link).

Green had been expected to leave Cincinnati all along. It’s a one-year deal worth “up to” $8.5MM with $6MM of that being guaranteed, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. The base value is $6MM with incentives that can push it higher, Mike Garafolo of NFL Network tweets. While Cardinals fans might be quick to get excited about this news, it could also indicate that fellow free agent Larry Fitzgerald is unlikely to return. Fitzgerald, 37, could decide to hang up his cleats or even continue playing with another team.

Green is now the second first-round pick from the 2011 draft the Cards have added this offseason after they already signed J.J. Watt. If they bring back Patrick Peterson, they’ll have three of the top 11 picks from that draft on the roster. Once one of the best receivers in the game, injuries limited Green to just nine contests in 2018 and he then missed the entire 2019 season.

He returned this past year to appear in all 16 games, but his role was greatly reduced in new coach Zac Taylor’s offense. He finished with just 47 catches for 523 yards, easily the lowest total of his career, including the nine-game campaign. His 694 yards in nine 2018 games would’ve projected out to 1,233 yards for a full season, so there are reasons to believe he’s still got something in the tank.

While it ended on a bad note, the fourth overall pick of the 2011 draft had an incredible run in Cincy. He set all sorts of franchise records while making seven Pro Bowls and three All-Pro teams. He didn’t seem to see eye to eye with the new Bengals management, and there was even some speculation back in October that he wanted to be traded although the wideout denied it.

Green will turn 33 in July, and he certainly won’t be the number one option in an offense that features DeAndre Hopkins. But he’s got a chip on his shoulder, and perhaps Hopkins’ presence will free things up for him. Here’s to hoping he rejuvenates his career in the desert.

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.

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.