A.J. Green played football for the Bengals in 2020. This was a welcome change of pace compared to recent history.
From 2018-2019, Green only played in nine games. He missed the back half of 2018 with an injury. On the first day of training camp in 2019, he injured his foot and ended up missing the entire season.
His contract was up, and the Bengals didn’t want to sign him to a long-term deal after he spent most of the previous two seasons on the sideline.
Green, on the other hand, wanted to be paid like a seven-time Pro Bowler who was second all-time in the franchise in receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns.
The compromise was the franchise tag. The Bengals only retained the rights to Green for the 2020 season and had to pay him about $18 million. The benefit of this was testing to see if Green could be like his old self.
A full sixteen games later, the Bengals got the answer to their $18 million dollar question. Green failed to live up to his own expectations.
In 2020, Green was targeted 104 times and caught 47 receptions. This was the first year in his ten-year career that he caught less than 50 percent of his targets.
Green tried to establish himself as the Bengals’ number one receiver but came in third on the team in targets (104), receptions (47), and receiving yards (523).
Inconsistent quarterback play definitely hindered Green, but not to the point where was the third-most productive receiver on the team. He had five games with at least one target and no receptions, and he played 80 percent or more of the teams’ snaps on four of those games. He just wasn’t the same player.
This wasn’t the case for the entire season, though. Green showed flashes of his old self against the Colts and the Cowboys. But his bad games—and his bad reps for that matter—outnumbered the good ones.
Spotrac estimates that Green will be able to draw a one-year, $6 million dollar deal this offseason. The Bengals might be tempted to re-sign him at that price, but Green may think that’s too low.
The Bengals have a lot of holes they have to fill this offseason. They also have four big-name free agents that they want to consider re-signing. Green just isn’t a high priority on the list.
If this was it for Green in Cincinnati, it’s a shame that it had to end like this. He was so close to overtaking Chad Johnson in several statistical categories and cement himself as the greatest wide receiver in Bengals’ history.
On the other hand, the Bengals love to retain their own in favor of taking a chance on someone from outside of the organization. So while the logical thing is to let Green walk, the Bengals might bring him back anyways.
We’ll find out the plan soon enough.