A.J. Green facing uncertain future in Cincinnati

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green (18) runs after a catch against the Dallas Cowboys in the first half of an NFL football game in Cincinnati, Sunday, Dec. 13, 2020. (AP Photo/Aaron Doster)

Combined ShapeCaption
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green (18) runs after a catch against the Dallas Cowboys in the first half of an NFL football game in Cincinnati, Sunday, Dec. 13, 2020. (AP Photo/Aaron Doster)

A.J. Green could be nearing the end of his time with the Cincinnati Bengals.

The 10-year veteran wide receiver says he isn’t worried about what the future holds with three games left, but at times this season Green has seemed like an afterthought in Cincinnati’s offense.

Green signed a $18 million franchise tag ahead of the season in hopes he could earn a long-term deal to finish his career where he started as the No. 4 pick in 2011, but he ranks third on the team in targets (88), receptions (41) and yards (419), behind Tyler Boyd and rookie Tee Higgins. Green has just two touchdowns.

“We’ll see what happens,” Green said Sunday after a 30-7 loss to Dallas. “I can’t read what’s going to happen. I’m living in the moment right now. Whatever is going to happen is going to happen. I love my time here. Who knows what is going to happen. I will be ready for anything and be excited to get back to playing football whether it is here or somewhere else.”

Green has said in the past that he has nothing to prove because his production over the years speaks for itself. Green was limited to just seven games combined in 2018 and 2019 due to injuries.

He has been active all 13 games so far, and he led the receivers Sunday with 62 yards on six catches, including the lone touchdown. However, Green is averaging a career-low three receptions a game and there have been four games in which he didn’t register a catch – two of those times he was targeted only once.

“The last couple weeks I felt good and I felt like I was winning on a lot of my routes,” Green said. “Sometimes the ball doesn’t come my way and there are different looks and different things like that. But this week, Brandon (Allen) gave me a lot of chances and looked my way quite a bit so I was just trying to make the plays for him.”

Meanwhile Higgins has stepped in as a viable option behind Boyd, and the Bengals also have a big, reliable target in Auden Tate, though he’s on injured reserve with a shoulder problem. Higgins is in the top three in the league among rookie receivers with 58 catches, eying the team record of 70 for first-year players.

Green expressed frustration earlier this season when he was seen on the sideline arguing with a coach and then didn’t play the rest of the game. He told media the next week that he was frustrated with himself and disappointed he let that show when he’s supposed to be a leader on the team.

The Bengals’ 2-10-1 record hasn’t made it easy for anyone, and since quarterback Joe Burrow suffered a season-ending knee injury Week 11 at Washington, the offense is adjusting to another new quarterback with Allen taking the reins.

“It’s been frustrating for everybody, not just me,” Green said. “You play this game long enough, there is always going to be bumps along the way. My job as a leader is to keep working. We are all frustrated, but don’t let your emotions show, just go out there and work. That is my approach to the game. These last 10 years no matter what the circumstances, just go out there and work, work on my craft and get better. This is not my right to play. It’s a privilege to play this game and that’s the way I look at it.”

Green is one touchdown catch away from the franchise all-time record, which Chad Johnson holds at 66 career touchdown receptions. Green is third on the overall touchdown list, led by Pete Johnson (70).

Green, a seven-time Pro Bowler, said “it would be nice to break Chad’s record” but his goal is to have big enough numbers to get into the Hall of Fame. In the shortterm, he’s more concerned about trying to help the team win.

“I am at a point in my career where Year 10 is not about the money and all the stats, it’s about having fun again playing football,” he said. “The only thing you can do for that is to win. It’s tough, but I’m a guy that stays level and keeps working each week.”

Allen said Green is still a mismatch for opponents and defenses have still tried to take him out of games, so it’s been tough to get him the ball at times.

Green believes he remains a top receiver in the league. After the season, he will sit down with his family and decide what the best decision is for his career.

“I’m still a great receiver,” Green said. “My role is not going to change no matter where I’m at. Whatever happens here, I still can play at a high level. I’m not worried about falling into a role right now. My job is to go out there and win one on ones and make plays whenever it’s called.”

MONDAY’S GAME

Steelers at Bengals, 8:15 p.m., ESPN, NFL, 700, 1530, 102.7, 104.7

About the Author