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Drafting Outside-the-Box: Part III - Trading A.J. Green

Trading Dalton? Most Bengals fans would sign up for that. Trading Green? Not so much. But, would it make sense to deal Green? Could you get behind such a trade if the Bengals could strengthen their team in both the long and short term?

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

I love the NFL Draft. I will read every mock draft I see and read any player profile I come across. In fact, I like to refer to the NFL Draft as Christmas for football fans. But, even a draft junky like myself can get tired of some of the draft overkill – player profiles, mock drafts, etc. So, in an effort to break up some of the draft talk monotony, I am running a three part series where I take a look at some Outside-the-Box draft ideas for the Bengals. Although these ideas (at least two of them) have little to no chance of coming to fruition, they will make you think and should create some fun discussions and debates for Bengals fans.

Trading Green

Most will read this and immediately (and incorrectly) jump to the conclusion that I am knocking A.J. Green and don’t like the Bengals star wide receiver. That’s not the case at all. I think Green is a very good receiver and a good locker room guy. But, he is about to command a huge salary, a salary that, in my opinion, will hinder the Bengals’ ability to build a championship team. While I wholly believe Green has earned a big contract, I don’t think it’s wise for the Bengals to be the team to pay it out. As such, I think the Bengals should capitalize on Green’s immense trade value and leverage him into two good young players in the 2015 draft.

My proposed trade? Green and a late round pick (i.e. 5th round pick) to the Raiders (maybe the Jaguars) for their 1st and 2nd round pick in 2015.

What to do with the trade? Take Amari Cooper with the fourth (or third) overall pick, take the top remaining offensive lineman or defensive tackle with their current 21st pick and select Phillip Dorsett with the pick you get at the top of round two (or vise versa).


  • Call me crazy, but I believe the Bengals would be better, short and long term, with Cooper, Dorsett and the lineman they select, than they would be with Green and whomever they choose to take at 21.
  • Cooper is not Green, but he doesn’t need to be. He will be a quality receiver who the Bengals can lock up for four to five more years at a reasonable price, PLUS, they would have another talent (Dorsett).
  • Green’s 2015 cap hit will be about $10.1M. If the Bengals elect to Franchise Tag Green in 2016, that cap hit will likely be in the $13-14M range – or roughly 10% of 2016 cap. In my opinion, championship teams cannot be built with a receiver occupying that much of a team’s cap space.
  • Extending Green and signing him at market value (probably in the $13-$15M per year range) will mean the Bengals will likely need to cut bait with two or three other key players (i.e. George Iloka, Andre Smith, Kevin Zeitler, Dre Kirkpatrick, etc.).
  • Green is deserving of a big contract, but, he is likely to get paid at a level above his big game production.
  • Take a look around the league and look at the success of teams who have paid "Elite" money to receivers. The Lions are the biggest example and their team success is not good. I believe it’s due to the deal restraining the team from signing other players. Example: Without the Calvin Johnson deal, the Lions likely would have resigned Ndmakong Suh – I believe the Lions with Suh and no Johnson are better than the Lions with Johnson and no Suh.
  • While Green is not old, he will be 27 at the start of the 2015 season. This trade allows the Bengals to get younger at wide receiver, with similar (though not equal) talent, all the while picking up an additional pick and freeing up money to sign the rest of their free agents.
  • Many have argued (maybe right, maybe wrong) that Dalton can’t take advantage of Green; if that is the case, why sign Green for big money? A very good wide receiver is easier to replace than even a middle of the road quarterback.
  • It is rarely discussed, and when it is, many consider it sacrilegious, but Green has the same big game concerns and failures of Dalton.
  • Sure, Dalton has had plenty of bad throws in big games that led to interceptions, but Green has had an equal amount of drops (see the San Diego playoff game), or fumbles (see Week 17 in Pittsburgh), or given up on routes (see Monday night, Week 16 against Denver), or the Thursday night game in Miami in 2013.
  • Green feasts on poor teams and overmatched corners, but often fades against top competition, which was a knock against him in college as well.
  • Take a look at Super Bowl winning teams. In my opinion, the last team to win a Super Bowl with an ‘elite’ WR (top 5 or 10) was the 2000 Saint Louis Rams (Torry Holt); prior to that, it was the 1996 Dallas Cowboys (Michael Irvin). And, I would argue that Holt was the third best player on that team, after Kurt Warner and Marshall Faulk, and Irvin was third as well, behind Emmitt Smith and Troy Aikman – probably fourth if you count the strong Cowboys defense.
  • Solid receivers are needed to win in the NFL (i.e. Anquan Boldin types), not elite receivers; and solid receivers can be found anywhere in the draft (similar to RBs).
  • Green is the only player on the team who can net the Bengals something of real value in a trade – if you ask, why trade Green? Why not trade Dalton? The answer is simple, Dalton has little trade value.
  • As good as he is, the Bengals have not been able to get over the hump with him and they did decent without him at times in 2014.
  • In 2014, the Bengals went 3-2-1 in games where Green did not play (or did not have a catch – due to injury). Given their opponents (Atlanta, Indianapolis (2), Carolina and Denver, I doubt their record would have been significantly different with him.

Why Not:

  • Green is the Bengals’ best player – from both a production and physicality standpoint.
  • He is a good locker room guy, a good guy for the community and is a low maintenance guy at a high maintenance position.
  • He has the size, speed and hands that are tough to find, let alone replace.
  • Can Dalton consistently win without a safety outlet like Green?
  • The rookie who replaces him (Cooper) is not at the same level of talent and is not a guaranteed to have NFL success.
  • By trading Green, the Bengals may be trading away a Hall of Fame receiver

Likelihood of occurring: I would be shocked if they pulled off a blockbuster deal like this on draft night, but I won’t rule it out completely. I will say the chances of this happening are 5%. This seems more like a Patriots type move, not a Bengals move.