The Cincinnati Bengals will reportedly be locking down A.J. Green for at least 2020 and are apparently willing to use the franchise tag to do it.
ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reported on Twitter that the Bengals are planning to use their franchise tag on the Pro Bowl wide receiver and have hopes of locking him down on a longer-term deal. Green sat out the 2019 season after tearing ligaments in his left ankle during the team’s first practice of the preseason, Sports Illustrated noted, and speculation grew over the course of the season about whether the Bengals might trade him. Prior to Sunday’s report, there had been other growing rumors that the Bengals would be parting ways with Green by allowing him to become a free agent.
Fowler said that keeping Green could be part of the long-term plans for the Bengals as they prepare to draft LSU quarterback Joe Burrow with the first-overall pick in May’s NFL Draft. The Bengals want to surround Burrow with talent, and reportedly did not want Green to leave. Both Green and the Bengals had expressed a desire to keep him in Cincinnati for the long term, though Green did not appear to like the idea of being tagged.
As Sports Illustrated added, the Bengals had been in contract discussions with Green, but they ultimately stalled.
AJ Green told me a franchise tag would speak volumes to him. "A franchise tag is not the best thing". pic.twitter.com/IwSKBPXpbc
— Elise Jesse (@Elise_JesseWLWT) January 23, 2020
There had already been signs that the Bengals were not going to let Green hit the open market, CBS Sports noted. Bengals head coach Zac Taylor also made it a point to say that Green was part of the team’s future plans.
“He’s a guy that we’re excited about to have part of this team, first and foremost. That’s what matters right now,” Taylor said, via The Score. “As we go through the offseason, we’ll figure out how it best fits. But right now, we expect him to be a part of the team. We want him to be a part of the team.”
“He’s certainly been a valuable member for the last couple years and done some great things. I’m excited to coach him, really for the first time this next season.”
Green had consistently been one of the top receivers in the NFL, notching 602 receptions for 8,907 yards and 63 touchdowns in his 111 career games. He would likely be one of the key targets for Burrow as the Bengals try to rebuild around the signal-caller seen as one of the most sure-fire draft prospects in many years.