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Bengals’ patient approach with A.J. Green could pay off in 2020

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Everyone in Who Dey Nation is frustrated with A.J. Green’s situation, but lost in the chaos is the wisdom in the Bengals’ approach to his rehab process.

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The Cincinnati Bengals achieved their first win of the 2019 season and did so without a familiar cast of characters. Cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick and wide receiver John Ross were two notable absences, but the team prevailed despite their services being unavailable.

Also missing, as has been the case all season, was another star wideout in A.J. Green. No. 18 has barely practiced since his mysterious ankle injury on the first day of training camp, prompting everyone to ask just what is going on with he and his ailment.

When we took the air for our usual postgame reaction video this week, Bengals fans were mostly pleased about finally witnessing a win for the first time in nearly a year. However, many continued to voice their bewilderment (and sometimes displeasure) with Green continuing to sit out games when he seems to at least be relatively close to playing.

On the postgame reaction video this week, we had a fan ask me to publicly admit Green is a quitter (I didn’t and won’t), as well as others proclaiming he’s abandoning the team, simply because the season is lost. How quickly folks forget about Green’s six 1,000-yard receiving seasons and his ability to single-handedly win games over the previous eight years for the Bengals.

But, I suppose that finger-pointing is part-and-parcel of a 1-11 season.

Looking at next year, the Cincinnati Bengals have made it known that Green is in their long-term plans. They didn’t deal him at the 2019 deadline after likely receiving lucrative offers, while Green has made it known that he’d like to end his career in Cincinnati.

If the price is right, that is. For those who have been around these parts, those type agreements haven’t always come easily with this management group.

While Cincinnati wants to get some form of a favorable deal because of Green’s missing of 25 games the past four seasons with injuries, they also know how important No. 18 is to potential future success. Whether it’s in giving a rookie needed veteran talent, or aiding Andy Dalton in another bridge year in 2020, Green should be a major cog in the team’s success since they didn’t deal him a few weeks ago.

Learning from past mistakes from other valuable veterans

Ever since Andrew Whitworth left in free agency back in the spring of 2017, the entire offense hasn’t been the same. He’s gone on to have a great couple of seasons with the Rams, while Cincinnati has cycled through the likes of Cedric Ogbuehi, Cordy Glenn, John Jerry and Andre Smith to fill No. 77’s void.

Though Whitworth was a pillar of stability, particularly in the health department, the issue was in the Bengals’ front office undervaluing the big offensive lineman. Not only did their allowing him to walk hurt their on-field performance, they also have taken a big P.R. hit, as “Whit” was one of the most well-liked players in team history.

It’s very likely Cincinnati’s powers-that-be have this scenario on memory-recall speed dial. Green is also in a similar mold as Whitworth was a few years ago, in terms of production and being well-respected, so letting him go would be another huge hit to the image.

And, if they are unable to keep Green for 2020 with at least the franchise tag (something he doesn’t want anyway), it would point to another massive gaffe by this ownership. Can you imagine their getting nothing for him in a trade because they wanted to hang on to him in an injury-riddled season, only to see him go elsewhere next season?

Yikes.

And, speaking of Glenn, that situation became a near-disaster a few weeks ago. It was rumored that Cincinnati was looking to deal the offensive lineman at the trade deadline, but hung on to him for this season and perhaps the rest of his contract.

He has played the past two games at a relatively-high level, as it also seems like some of the bad feelings have dissipated. Still, given that Glenn was one of the more important players this year, one is inclined to believe that the team’s supposed pushing of the big tackle to come back from his concussion before he felt ready is something else the team is taking into account with Green and his own future with the club.

Building offseason equity with their star receiver

Let’s be frank, here: the Cincinnati Bengals have never been a franchise in which the players dictate the course of the team’s direction. We’ve seen Paul, Mike and other Brown family members dig their heels in on issues pertaining to players—even if it is a detriment to the team’s success.

However, the current owner has also shown a penchant for playing favorites with certain players. Mike had a soft spot for Chris Henry, and also hired Carson Palmer’s younger brother, Jordan, to remain on the roster for three seasons in an effort to placate their franchise quarterback (notice the younger Palmer was let go by the Bengals in the summer of 2011?).

Brown has also shown a willingness to pay offensive players—particularly skill position guys. Palmer, Chad Johnson and offensive linemen like Willie Anderson signed some of the most lucrative contracts in league history for their positions at the time.

Allowing Green to rehab at his own pace and get back into a game when he says he is ready is showing good faith to a quality employee. In any business, this is the type of practice that builds loyalty among the workforce—especially when it comes to contracted workers.

Green will be on his third and potentially final NFL contract, so he wants to make sure he’s set up for the rest of his life. He also has said he’d love to stay in The Queen City and that sentiment could heighten, thanks to the team’s “Hey, man: do whatever you need to do” approach with his ankle injury this year.

Cincinnati attempted to sell everyone on the idea that they’d be competitive in 2019 with a healthy roster and new coaching staff. Nothing really fell into place with that notion this year, but it’s also something they could push next season.

Bringing a healthy Green back for a couple of years would help them sell the idea in 2020. This is where the Bengals’ “white glove treatment” of Green breeds some logic—even if it’s frustrating for fans to endure.

The point is that this is a long-term play by the Bengals in their 2019 approach. They know the season has been lost for a while and they obviously view Green as crucial to the next couple of years in the Zac Taylor regime. This agreeable stance by the club in 2019 could breed a more willing negotiating stance by Green’s party this winter and spring.

Also on the Week 13 postgame recap:

  • Andy Dalton’s play was some of the better tape we’ve witnessed in years.
  • The defense’s performance was one of the most dominant we’ve seen in quite some time. It’s the third straight solid output by the beleaguered unit.
  • Cincinnati as seemed to slowly be improving towards the end of the year—is it a sign that things are beginning to turn the corner under Zac Taylor, or is it simply a by-product of playing three weak/mediocre teams?
  • In the scope of just one win, are the Bengals currently as bad as their 1-11 record indicates?

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