Even though it’s probably obvious to most, it’s still really hard to type this:
A.J. Green will not be back next year.
The writing has been on the wall for a while, at least since the game against the Baltimore Ravens in October when he was apparently seen saying “Just trade me” on the sideline. Now there are rumors circulating confirming this nightmare.
The real tragedy isn’t that he’ll play for a new team. That hurts, and believe me, I’ve been worrying about it for some time. Back in 2017, I asked him to commit to the team for the rest of his career in a live chat. He didn’t do it. I was crushed.
The real tragedy is we never got to see him reach his full potential with the Bengals. He put up good numbers, but he never had the kind of quarterback or coach who could put him in position to win in the postseason. And for most of his career, he was stuck with less-than-stellar offensive schemes and a QB who struggled to hit him in stride on deep throws. In other words, even his numbers could’ve been better. By the time he got to play with a true franchise quarterback, Joe Burrow, it was too late.
Actually, the real tragedy is, we will never get to see him reach his potential even outside Cincinnati. Yes, Green is only 32 (though he’ll be 33 in July), and I remember when Randy Moss had a career renaissance (and an NFL record 23 touchdown receptions) at age 30 when he moved to New England. But those two or three years are a lot for wide receivers. And Moss never had the injuries Green has had.
Of course, that’s not to say I think he’s as done as people think. As I say in the video below, a deep dive into the Bengals’ upcoming free agent class, I think Green is suffering from what the American Psychiatric Association has termed “Carlos Dunlap syndrome,” or, an illness that occurs when one is so sick of playing for the Cincinnati Bengals that he loses his love for the game of football and appears to have lost athleticism and or skill.
And please, don’t comment things like “good riddance” or “he stinks”. Just admit you don’t understand the culture of the Bengals. People who say things like that are the same who thought all the team’s problems would be fixed by firing Marvin Lewis.
The reason Green won’t be back isn’t that he doesn’t fit the team’s timeline or they can’t pay for him. Rather, as I argue in the video and the podcast, which you can listen to on iTunes or using the player below, the biggest issue is Green doesn’t like how the team used him.
If that seems like a recurring theme, that’s probably because it is. Carlos Dunlap was only the most obvious example. But all signs point to others, like Geno Atkins and—as John Sheeran states in the podcast and video above— Mackensie Alexander similarly not seeing eye-to-eye with the coaching staff.
The Bengals could come out and give Green more years, more money, and even—gasp—more guaranteed money, and he’d still prefer to sign with clubs like the Green Bay Packers or Seattle Seahawks. This is because he not only wants to win, but—in my opinion—he no longer enjoys being a Bengal. That’s sad, and a tragedy, but hardly unique. Before him, there was Corey Dillon, Carson Palmer, Johnathan Joseph... I mean, you get the point.
I was going to summarize his amazing, Hall of Fame worthy numbers here. But honestly, it wasn’t even about the numbers with Green.
He was the engine that fueled the offense of those playoff teams under Lewis.
He was the Ravens killer.
He was the guy who had the catch radius of Inspector Gadget and then would leap over multiple defenders when he wasn’t in position to use his length to embarrass them.
He was our Adriel. Jeremiah. Green. And he did it all with humility, charm, and love for the city. He was a blessing, and we’ll miss him dearly.