There was a time that A.J. Green was rightly regarded as one of the best, or at least one of the most consistent wide receivers in the NFL. The fourth-overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, his pairing with second-round quarterback Andy Dalton seemingly turned the fortunes of the Cincinnati Bengals, as they went to the playoffs five years in a row from that point forward.
As he heads into his 10th season, however, he is coming off of a completely lost season, and an increasingly frustrating history with injuries. He didn’t play at all in 2019 after reaggravating a toe injury on the first day of training camp. His contract also expired, and the Bengals franchise tagged him.
Two days after the negotiating window ended, though, Green signed his tag and let it be known that he is coming to camp as soon as he is allowed.
“I’ve been hurt. It was always tough to get a deal on. Especially (because) I know my value and also, they still need to see me play”, he told team reporters after signing his franchise tender. “I understand that’s a tough place to be when you’re running a business. But like I said, we had great communication”.
“That’s one thing about this whole process”, he added; “we understand each other. The points that we made, my agent and I, the points Katie had made, for us the feeling is mutual. I always wanted to envision myself retiring at one team. That’s still on the table. If I stay healthy, we’ll see what happens”.
Now that he is returning to the offense, he is coming back to a unit that looks fairly different. Under center will be rookie Joe Burrow, the first-overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. Tee Higgins is a wide receiver who was taken a round later, and will be competing for playing time alongside Tyler Boyd, one of the top slot receivers in the NFL, and John Ross, who has been incrementally productive as a former first-round pick.
And he wants to be a part of what’s coming. The Bengals have posted losing records four years in a row now, missing the playoffs all the while. They went 2-14 without him, which is why they were in a position to get Burrow. But that’s the past. He’s ready for better things to come.
“I have at least four — four great years left in me”, he said. “Great years. I mean, I always said I wanted to play 15 years, but coming now, I am like, ‘man, maybe I can play more’. I’ve got my body where I feel good, so we’ll see. We’ll take it year by year. When I’m done playing, when I seem like I’m retiring, I don’t love the game anymore. I still love the game. I still love the practice so when that goes away, then I’ll be done”.
Green enters the 2020 season needing 1093 receiving yards to reach 10,000 for his career. He has 63 touchdowns in 111 games played. How many more will come from the arm of Burrow?