Aside from the 2015 regular season beginning, the breaking news that many Bengals fans are waiting to see is an extension for star wide receiver AJ Green. With the signings of other wide receivers like Demaryius Thomas, Dez Bryant and Julio Jones in recent months, Green's deal, if it happens before next year, should come any day. If it's going to happen, it would be best, for both Green and the team, to get a deal done before the Bengals kick off on Sunday afternoon.
While Green has shown during the last four seasons that he's a top-tier wide receiver in the NFL and the Bengals do have the money to lock him up for a long time, is it really in their best interest to do so? To decide, we should look at other teams and some stats from the last four years.
First, let's predict what kind of contract Green might sign with the Bengals.
Career stats: 381 receptions for 5,424 yards and 56 touchdowns.
New contract: 5-year, $70 million (including a $20 million signing bonus and $45 million gurananteed).
Career stats: 351 receptions for 5,317 yards and 41 touchdowns.
New contract: 5-year, $70 million (including an $11 million signing bonus and $43.5 million guaranteed).
Career stats: 278 receptions for 4,330 yards and 26 touchdowns.
New Contract: 5-year, $71.256 million (including $12 million signing bonus and $47 million guaranteed).
Now let's take a look at Green's career stats: 329 receptions for 4,874 yards and 35 touchdowns.
It would make sense that Green, being the last big-name wide receiver to sign a contract, would become the highest paid among the group if he does sign. But to be safe, we can reasonably predict that he's looking for a deal worth about $70 million for five years with around $45 million guaranteed and a $15 million signing bonus.
Considering Green is one of the top wide receivers in the league, most believe he's worth it, and he likely is. But let's take a look at the last 10 super bowl champions and their No. 1 wide receivers.
2005: Pittsburgh Steelers - Hines Ward (contract: 5 years, $24.8 million)
2006: Indianapolis Colts - Marvin Harrison (7 years, $67 million, $30 million guaranteed)
2007: New York Giants - Plaxico Burress (6 years, $25 million)
2008: Pittsburgh Steelers - Hines Ward (see above)
2009: New Orleans Saints - Marques Colston (5 years, $36.3 million, $17.7 million guaranteed)
2010: Green Bay Packers - Greg Jennings (unknown)
2011: New York Giants - Victor Cruz (5 years, $43 million, $15.6 guaranteed)
2012: Baltimore Ravens - Anquan Boldin (3 years, $25 million, $3 million guaranteed)
2013: Seattle Seahawks - Golden Tate (4 years, $3.4 million, $1.4 million guaranteed)
2014: New England Patriots - Julian Edelman (4 years, $17 million, $8 million guaranteed)
From what we see here, with an exception of Marvin Harrison, only Victor Cruz had a deal worth more than half of what Jones, Thomas and Bryant' new contracts are worth. Also notice Jones, Bryant and Thomas aren't on the above list of Super Bowl winners.
We could use the above list to make the conclusion that the Bengals don't need to sign Green to a $70- million (or more) deal to win a Super Bowl because none of the teams who have won during the last decade had to mortgage their team for an elite wide receiver. Some of the players above finished their careers, or are currently playing for other teams (Jennings, Tate and Boldin).
There is another way to look at the above information, though. We've seen the list of wide receivers, now let's look at the quarterbacks:
Ben Roethlisburger (twice), Peyton Manning, Eli Manning (twice), Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Joe Flacco, Russell Wilson and Tom Brady. That list includes likely five future hall of famers; possibly more.
Every one of those quarterbacks is better than Andy Dalton. Take Tom Brady off of the 2014 Patriots team and replace him with Andy Dalton, they don't win Super Bowl 49. The same goes for every team during the last decade. It could be argued that the Bengals need to mortgage the team to keep Green in the fold in order to give Dalton his best chance to succeed.
Dalton's stats with Green in 2014:
205 completions on 324 attempts for 63% completion percentage, 14 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.
Dalton stats without Green in 2014:
104 completions of 157 attempts for 66% completion percentage, five touchdowns and four interceptions.
While Dalton doesn't throw for as many touchdowns per game when Green's not in the game (1.27 per game vs 1 per game), he also doesn't throw nearly as many interceptions (1.18 per game with Green vs 0.8 without him). This isn't one person's fault. Dalton forces too many passes into Green when he's in the game and tends to focus just on his primary receiver. Green isn't nearly as aggressive as he could be when the ball is in the air and allows cornerbacks to cut in front of him at times.
We all heard Jon Gruden tear into Green when the Bengals lost to the Buccaneers in the preseason, saying that many of the interceptions thrown his way are his fault, and we all know that Dalton, tends to throw the ball to Green even when he's not open. He's good at reading the defense before the snap, but struggles at reading the defense when he has the ball in his hands.
Some believe it's time to give up on Dalton, others believe his best days are ahead of him. I personally think we've seen is what he can do and, while he's capable of winning big games, he's not the kind of quarterback who can do it on his own. He needs Green.
Another quarterback might not, though. After the 2015 season, the potential dead money from releasing Dalton falls from $13.8 million to $7.2 million and after that it falls to $4.8 million after 2016 and $2.4 million after 2017.
If Dalton in 2015 is the Dalton we've seen before, maybe it would be time to look elsewhere for a quarterback. Maybe that quarterback won't need Green to take the Bengals to the next level. Still, having him wouldn't hurt.
What do you think?