Green, who turned 32 on July 31, also could have potentially waited longer to sign and miss training camp and the preseason, which would have been less than ideal for rookie quarterback Joe Burrow.
The door now closes on both scenarios with the team announcing his signing Friday, and Green will have the opportunity to use this season to prove he is healthy and potentially secure the long-term deal he covets. Green missed the entire 2019 season because of ankle surgery and was sidelined seven games in 2018 because of a toe injury.
“From the day that he joined our organization nine years ago, A.J. Green has been an outstanding player and a class act,” Bengals executive vice president Katie Blackburn said in a news release Friday. “We are pleased that he will be part of the team this year, starting with the first practice. By signing, A.J. puts himself and the team in the best position to have a great season together, and we look forward to the opportunity at the end of the season to discuss keeping him here long-term. He has been an integral part of our team, and we expect this year that he will be the same impact player he has always been.”
Green had said in December he would not sit out this season if the Bengals franchise-tagged him, but he was hoping to work out a long-term deal to help him close out his career in Cincinnati.
Bengals.com writer Geoff Hobson quoted Green in an article Friday saying he and the organization remain “all in a good place.” According to Hobson, Green thinks an extension might have been reached had it not been for the COVID-19 pandemic creating some uncertainty for the future.
Green was scheduled to speak to local media in a Zoom news conference Friday evening.
“I’ve got the same mindset,” Green told Hobson. “I want to play another four years and I hope to retire as a Bengal. There were never harsh words. I understand there’s a business side of it. For me, I just want to play football.”
Hobson went on to write that Green says team officials have told him they also want him to retire a Bengal “many times.”
“I just have to stay healthy and put some great football on tape and go from there,” Green said in Hobson’s article. “It will work itself out. I’m just happy to get back into Zac’s system.”
The seven-time Pro Bowl receiver has yet to get a full practice in coach Zac Taylor’s system. After a cautious return last summer from his 2018 toe injury, Green injured his ankle on the first day of 2019 training camp.
Taylor has been anxious to insert Green into his offense and hopefully now gets that chance. A first-round draft pick by the Bengals in 2011, Green has become one of the most productive receivers in team history. He currently stands second in Bengals history in career receptions (602) and receiving yards (8907), is tied for second in receiving touchdowns (63), and ranks first in 100-yard receiving games (33).
“A.J. is one of the best receivers in the NFL,” Taylor said in the team release Friday. “He’s an important part of our plans, and we’re thrilled to have him in the fold from Day 1. We’re looking forward to the impact of his talent and leadership on our offense this season.”