We have two stories today for the Cincinnati Bengals, and they are related to one another. I had already intended today to write about a report that the Bengals intend to place the franchise tag on longtime veteran wide receiver A.J. Green, a former perennial Pro Bowler who has been sidelined with injuries for most of the past few seasons.
Yesterday, a second report surfaced that presumptive first-overall pick, LSU quarterback Joe Burrow, “made it clear” to the Bengals, who of course hold that first-overall pick, that he wanted them to retain Green. When healthy, he is clearly Cincinnati’s number one wide receiver, but ‘when healthy’ has been a pretty big qualifier lately.
Outside of Green, the Bengals’ starting wide receivers are John Ross, a former top-10 pick going into his fourth season who has had a bit of an up-and-down career, and Tyler Boyd, who is an efficient option but is largely limited to playing out of the slot. Others on the roster include Auden Tate.
The Bengals had a face-to-face meeting with Burrow during the NFL Scouting Combine in the past week, and it would have obviously been in this meeting that he would have conveyed to the team his desire that they keep Green, who made the Pro Bowl in each of his first seven seasons before injuries prevented him from playing enough in the past two to be considered.
One thing that Peter King did say about Burrow’s meeting with the Bengals, in addition to reporting the tidbit that he told the team he’d like them to keep Green, is that while he said he would play for them if drafted, “I still get the feeling he wants to see more devotion to winning than the Bengals have shown”.
As I’ve talked about here earlier this offseason, Cincinnati is perennially one of the teams with the most salary cap space. Once they alleviate themselves of Andy Dalton’s contract, they will have over $60 million in salary cap space to spend this offseason, so it would be nothing to them to slap the $18 million or so franchise tag on Green.
They would, of course, prefer to do a long-term deal with Green, but it’s simply not something you can do with somebody who has missed most of the past two seasons, including all of the previous season, especially at a position like wide receiver.
He may not be thrilled about it, but he has to understand his own situation. Given how much time he has missed over the course of the past four seasons (he has missed at least six games in three of those four years), it’s very hard to justify making a high-dollar commitment beyond one year until he at least shows he can get through a full season again.