Mike Sando of ESPN.com (Insider required) expects the Bengals to allow WR A.J. Green to play out the final year of his rookie contract rather negotiate a long-term now that he’s eligible to do so this offseason.
Beyond that, Sando can see them using their franchise tag at some point down the road given that the Bengals are no stranger to approaching free agents this way.
It’s worth noting that the Bengals will have to decide whether or not to pick up Green’s fifth-year option that would pay him an average of the top-25 salaries at his respective position. The deadline for doing so is on March 11.
That means the Bengals could keep Green under team control through the 2016 season by picking up his option in the next few weeks and then using their franchise tag the following years. The downside here is that the option and franchise tag will come with large, fully guaranteed salaries that could complicate their cap situation while a long-term deal would keep him under contract for a long period of time and at lower cap figures for at least the first few years.
Bengals will have to address a number of players in the near future due to their talented roster including QB Andy Dalton, which should be a fascinating situation given that there are some concerns regarding whether or not he’s capable of leading the team to a Super Bowl.
Green, 25, is already in the discussion for the best receiver in the league and is in position to eventually be paid like one.
Here’s a look at the top receiver contracts as of now:
- Calvin Johnson: eight-years, $150.5M total, $60M guaranteed.
- Larry Fitzgerald: eight-years, $128.5M total, $50M guaranteed.
Green should have a good shot at beating Fitzgerald’s contract if he continues to perform at such a high level and stay healthy.