Wide receivers Dez Bryant and Demaryius Thomas, who were set to enter 2015 with the franchise tag, danced under Wednesday's deadline signing five-year deals worth $70 million each -- Bryant inked a deal with $45 million in guaranteed money whereas Thomas capitulated with a measly $43.5 million. Both players had promised to miss games in 2015 (so they threatened) if an extension wasn't reached this week, highlighting a one-sided theme with players lacking any leverage; Blue Collar America rolls their eyes and Greece learns how to turn threats into solutions.
Both deals were initially complicated by Calvin Johnson's 2012 extension which gave him $16.2 million/year with $52.4 million guaranteed. Johnson, and the deal signed by Larry Fitzgerald "set a false financial perspective as it relates to the pay structure. That was a big issue as late as 3 o’clock in the morning," Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said via KRLD-FM on Wednesday night. Yet as Dallas' boisterous owner admits, the issue wasn't talent nor production, it was whether the Cowboys could trust Bryant to not get into trouble:
The evolving of his maturation has been spectacular. It has been said throughout this process that his contract that the same thing that made him drop in the draft from a top 5 pick to where we got him. The same thing is impacting him in this negotiation. No one breathing from the perspective that this needed to be evaluated, which is giving him a long term contract. No one breathing knows Dez better than me. No one breathing. And for us to agree to this contract and the terms and everything says all you need to say about Dez and how we feel and how I feel, and I feel like I’m the expert in terms of the whole package as to what Dez is about.
Locally the question becomes obvious, significant and even divisive: How will these deals impact negotiations with A.J. Green, who will be a free agent at the conclusion of this season? How much are the Bengals willing to invest in a single player? Is Cincinnati willing to leave the table and move on without Green in 2016?
According to ESPN, Green's representatives met with the Bengals in February to "discuss signing him to a long-term deal" but those discussions were fruitless. On multiple occasions, Green has promoted the idea he's "not broke" and intends to play out his season. However those comments, and overall position, came before Bryant and Thomas signed their respective contracts.
Now there's more clarity.
Green's representatives could ask for a similar deal to those of Bryant and Thomas', maybe saying, "we won't accept anything less." Five years and $70 million is significant, but Green and his representatives will logically focus more on the guaranteed money. With his fifth-year fully guaranteed, Green already has the team's highest guaranteed number at $19.688 million -- Andy Dalton currently has the biggest guaranteed number among Bengals players who have already signed an extension.
Cincinnati may refuse to spend so much on one player; a player who's currently coming off a season with multiple injuries, including a concussion that forced him to miss last year's wild card game against the Indianapolis Colts. Whether it's the franchise tag or an extension, the money is significant.
"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," said Brown earlier this year.
Some of the players who will become free agents next offseason include safeties George Iloka and Reggie Nelson, cornerbacks Leon Hall 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."
Regardless, it's unlikely we'll see much movement with negotiations this year. Cincinnati might be smart to sign Green to a long-term deal soon, but Green probably won't be; especially if he has a massive rebound like he's capable of having. And that appears to be his position, according to reports from the NFL Network, who report that Green will play out his fifth-year option worth $10.1 million in 2015.
#Bengals WR AJ Green is a top contract priority for Cincy, but he’ll wait until next offseason, won’t hold out. Set to make $10.1M in 2015— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) July 14, 2015