If there is a light at the end of the tunnel for the 2014 Cincinnati Bengals, it has to be the collective young age of their stacked roster, the amount of key players that they have locked up in contracts and the optimistic outlook of their salary cap situation. Back on Christmas Eve, the Bengals were reported to be hovering around the $22-$23 million range, in terms of space under the cap with about $10 million of that amount being carried over from 2013.
That space should give them plenty of maneuverability to sign a couple of outside free agents to bulk up some weaker areas and extend some players who are finally eligible for potential extensions. Last year, Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap were two of the team's biggest priorities to sign before their rookie contracts expired and the team got the deals done. This offseason, All-Pro wide receiver A.J. Green is likely the primary target/
He was asked about a new contract on Monday and one could say that he was positive and coy all at the same time:
"Anybody would like to have it done," the Pro Bowl receiver said one day after his team was eliminated from the AFC playoffs. "I'm not in any financial debt, so no rush."
"I'll just play it by ear," Green said. "My body of work speaks for itself. Whatever they want."
It sounds as if he's open to the idea of staying with the Bengals long-term, especially if they give him the dollars that he wants and deserves. Some fans have wondered whether Green wants to actually stay in Cincinnati for most, if not all of his career, pointing to odd body language and a sometimes strained relationship with Andy Dalton because of the quarterback's erratic play. Others chalk it up to Green just being a low-profile company-man who doesn't relish in the camera lights like so many other stars at the position.
Dalton is another player that the Bengals may look at extending this offseason, but with his poor play in big games (especially the playoffs) it might be hard for the club to rationalize spending big money on a player who shrivels in big moments. It's going to be an interesting offseason for the club at the quarterback position.
Aside from talking contract, Green also spoke on being more of a team leader. He's always been a bit quiet, as I mentioned above, but is apparently looking to change that within the walls of Paul Brown Stadium.
"I have to be more vocal and demand things," Green said. "It's going to be hard but I feel like I've done enough here to say some things. I still have to be more vocal. Not selfish, but talk to people."
Perhaps Green being more vocal will bring more of a needed sense of accountability in the Bengals' locker room. Green is definitely deserving of being looked at as a leader in Cincinnati's locker room, but he too will have to clean up some of the finer points of his game, including drops and the random lapses in effort.