The last time the Cinncinnati Bengals drafted a quarterback high, they made sure that they had the wide receiver to throw to him, first. Back in 2011, when they held the fourth-overall pick, they used their first-round pick on wide receiver A.J. Green, before they circled back in the second round to grab Andy Dalton, who has been a starter since day one outside if being benched briefly last season for a few games.
With a new regime, an expiring contract with no dead money, and four consecutive losing seasons with no playoffs to show for it, however, the writing seems to be on the wall for Dalton, with Cincinnati lined up to draft Joe Burrow out of LSU with the first-overall pick.
And they are hoping that he still has Green to throw to. Even though the perennial Pro Bowler has missed the vast majority of the past two seasons due to injury, the team remains optimistic not only that he can return to form with ease, but also that they can get him back under contract.
Back in 2015, Green signed a four-year extension worth $15 million. That contract will have run its course at the start of the new league year in 2020, meaning he is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent, assuming that the team does not tag him.
“Oh, absolutely. He’s a big priority for us,” second-year head coach Zac Taylor said of the man he’s never even gotten a chance to coach yet. “Things will have to work out over the course of the spring, but we certainly plan on A.J. being in the fold next year. He’s back healthy and we know that’s a huge weapon that will certainly benefit us”.
Green spent much of the offseason continuing to recover from a toe injury from the 2018 season. He originally suffered the injury back in Week Eight, but attempted to return after three games and re-injured it in the process, making matters even worse.
On the first day of training camp, he tore ligaments in his ankle. He was initially only expected to miss a few games into the regular season; however, he remained sidelined over the course of the entire year, and was ultimately placed on the Reserve/Injured List shortly before Christmas.
In his first eight games of the 2018 season, he proved that he was still a very effective player, catching 75 passes for 694 yards and six touchdowns. That’s better than any Pittsburgh Steelers receiver did in all of the 2019 season, though of course under different circumstances.
Since being drafted fourth overall, Green has caught 602 passes for 8907 yards and 63 touchdowns. He made the Pro Bowl in each of his first seven seasons, but injuries over the course of the past two years prevented him from continuing that streak.