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90-in-90 Bengals Roster Breakdown: A.J. Green has potential to be NFL’s best wide receiver

The sixth-year wideout has always been one of the premier players at his position, but he’s yet to set himself apart from the rest of his competition. With a ton of anticipated targets, Green might do just that in 2016.

NFL: Preseason-Minnesota Vikings at Cincinnati Bengals Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

A.J. Green is unquestionably one of the best wide receivers in the NFL, but where he ranks among the league’s best seems to vary on a year-to-year basis. After his stellar 2013 season, Green was the consensus number two wide receiver behind the now-retired Calvin Johnson before battling through injuries throughout 2014. Since then, he’s always been near the top of the pecking order but not quite on top. In 2015, Green joined Randy Moss as the second wide receiver in NFL history to tally 1,000+ receiving yards in each of his first five pro seasons. With the offseason departures of Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu, as well as the now very likely early-season absence of Tyler Eifert, Green could potentially see as many targets as he’d been getting in 2012 and 2013 (164 and 180) if the Bengals continue to run a pass-heavy offense.

Player Info

Height: 6’4”
Weight: 210 pounds
Age: 28
College: Georgia
Hometown: Summerville, SC
Position: Wide receiver

Contract Status

Green signed a four year, $60 million contract extension in September last year. The deal was low on guaranteed money, with $26.75 in full guarantees, ($32.75 in total guarantees), it made Green the highest-paid wide receiver in average annual salary. The extension was very team-friendly for such a blockbuster deal, as it was low on guarantees in comparison to the deals done with comparable receivers over the 2015 offseason. However, it’s important to note the contract was still a mutually beneficial deal. Not only did Green’s contract make him the highest-paid receiver in AAV, but it also gives him a chance to hit the free agent market following his age-31 season — a year before Julio Jones’ deal expires — which could potentially work out in Green’s favor.

2016 Stock

Though Green’s presence on the field hasn’t changed, his numbers have taken a hit since a monster 2013 season. In 2014, the receiver battled through injuries all year long, while in 2015, Green was one of many mouths to feed. And though there’s always a chance Ken Zampese establishes a run-oriented offense (though it’s important to note, for the record, there’s no way to know what his offense will truly look like until the regular season starts), Green will have less competition for targets, which will only boost his potential to put up big numbers. Green caught just three short of 100 passes in 2012 and two short in 2013; perhaps in 2016, he’ll finally hit triple-digit catches. If the receiver’s production remains constant — and he’s able to stay healthy — Green should be able to surpass his career-high of 11 touchdowns, potentially setting a new career-high in yards as well.

Though he’s soft-spoken and does his best to avoid the limelight, Green is still a superstar. The wideout could be an NFL posterboy if he truly wanted to, but he’s chosen to aim his sights on something far more important than attention: a gold jacket. Celebrity status and fame don’t seem to mean much to the wideout, as a future Hall of Fame bid is what the superstar currently has his eyes on. And as long as the playmaker continues to pile 1,000-yard seasons onto his resumé, it’s going to be hard to ignore him as a future candidate.