Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green could hold the distinction of having the most complicated contract negotiation in franchise history. Green, who is playing on a fifth-year option worth $10.176 million, is a four-time all-star, who makes amazing catches and posts numbers that rivals some of the league's top all-time receivers. If the Bengals are unable to reach an agreement for a long-term deal by March of next year, Green would be a prime candidate for the franchise tag
Whether it's an extension or the franchise tag, the money is significant... and that obviously weighs heavily on Mike Brown's mind.
"Our problem is what you just said, the money is so big. We are going to have a finite cap room with a handful of players who are going to be eligible for free agency," Brown said in March. "Some of the players that will become free agents this time next year include safeties George Iloka and Reggie Nelson, cornerbacks Leon Hall, Dre Kirkpatrick and Adam Jones, offensive linemen Andrew Whitworth, Andre Smith and Kevin Zeitler, as well as wide receivers A.J. Green, Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu. The list grows."
"We are going to have to see what we can get done with that," said Brown. "We don't know yet where we are going to end up but we have tried to prepare ourselves for it some by holding back on cap expenditures this year which can be rolled over into next year. That will give us a little bit more potential to make deals."
"Signing Green long-term may be easier said than done because of Cincinnati's preferred structure with lucrative veteran contracts," writes Joel Corry at CBSSports.com. "The team's contracts are typically light on guaranteed money because of the absence of base salaries guarantees. Quarterback Andy Dalton's six-year extension with a base value of $16 million per year has a team high $17 million in guarantees. By contrast, $27 million of Wallace's $30 million in guarantees was fully guaranteed at signing. Since reinventing the wheel structurally will be a challenge for Green, it would not be a surprise if he played at least one year under a franchise tag."
Last year the franchise tag reached a guaranteed $12.8 million for wide receivers. Green could inject impressive numbers into the back of his baseball card for the next two years and rock the league's ever-increasing salary cap into a record deal. According to Pro Football Talk, the 2016 salary cap could reach $160 million. Yes... signing Green to a long-term deal today obviously fiscally benefits the Bengals long-term (and it doesn't help that Brown has to contemplate such things while his price tag increases).
On the other hand, waiting for the market to come to Green might be the smartest move -- and a great reason to resist negotiations right now... as long as he's willing to risk the greatest variable of all: injury.