A.J. Green should just play 2020 season on the franchise tag

A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals

Credit: John Grieshop/Getty Images

The Bengals are talking contract extension with A.J. Green, but here’s why he should just play the 2020 season on the franchise tag.

Given his history with the franchise, it was a no-brainer for the Cincinnati Bengals to franchise tag wide receiver A.J. Green in March. With the July 15 deadline to reach a multi-year agreement nearing, ESPN’s Dan Graziano reported the Bengals have discussed an extension with the seven-time Pro Bowler.

Green suffered an ankle injury on the first day of training camp last year, and wound up missing the entire season. He appeared closest to returning in Week 10, but a setback with his ankle ended that idea. Perhaps he saw overwhelmed rookie quarterback Ryan Finley practice as the starter. Green has now played 10 or less games in three of the last four seasons, missing 29 of 64 games, and he will turn 32 on July 31.

Green is slated to make $17.97 million on the franchise tag this year. He lingers as a possible trade candidate, but at this point it seems certain he’ll be a Bengal come Week 1.

Why A.J. Green should just play the 2020 season on the franchise tag

Green has said he hoped to avoid the franchise tag but understood the business aspect of it for the Bengals and himself.

“I have no problem with the franchise (tag). I don’t like it, but I’m not a guy that’s going to sit out the whole year,” Green said. “But at the end of the day, that shows me they’re not committed to me. That’s fine. They have a business they have to run. As the player I have my own business, so if you do that I have to protect myself.”

At this stage of his career, Green might like to play for a playoff contender. The Bengals might have found their quarterback of the future in Joe Burrow, but they are at least a couple years away from being there. A multi-year deal to stay in Cincinnati still might not put him into that new potential contending window, and a number of teams interested in trading for him might turn away.

Talent Around Him

In Burrow, Green will have an upgrade in talent under center. After missing an entire season, he has to rehab his value by being 1. healthy and 2. productive. With Tyler Boyd and rookie Tee Higgins forming a nice trio of wide receivers and Joe Mixon in place as a capable running back, defenses won’t be able to key on Green, in a diminished state or not.

Will The Bengals Pay Green What He Thinks He’s Worth?

Bengals owner Mike Brown is famously stingy, with a pared-down scouting staff and a general refusal to pay top dollar for free agents. The uncertainty of next year’s NFL salary cap could have an affect on contract extension talks league-wide, and the Bengals could use it as a reason to low-ball Green (and Mixon, for that matter).

Green may be looking to top Adam Thielen’s $16 million in average annual value in a new deal, and his resume says he’s worth it. But the aforementioned durability concerns are sure to diminish Cincinnati’s desire to commit much fully guaranteed money beyond a year or two out, and that would be a smart path.

Even if the Bengals come with an offer to his liking, Green would still better off to play the 2020 season on the franchise tag. That keeps all options open, including the Bengals moving him between now and the trade deadline. If he stays healthy and has a nice season, he can hit the market in a better position for a multi-year deal next March.

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