The Best Potential Landing Spots for A.J. Green Next Season
He is among the league's best wide receivers when healthy. He's had a prestigious career with the Cincinnati Bengals, recording more than 600 catches with nearly 9,000 yards and 63 touchdowns over 111 games. Some might consider those accomplishments even more impressive given his surroundings.
But Green, turning 32 this July, hasn't been able to stay healthy. He missed all of last season after suffering an injury on the first day of training camp, missed seven games in 2018 and sat out six more in 2016.
Knowing the NFL, this won't stop some team from offering what is likely to be a massive, incentive-based deal once he hits the market and bidding wars begin. If he's not back with the Bengals, Green's next team likely has the means to pay him, the outright need and the appeal to a veteran who would like to contend as he finishes his career.
New England Patriots
Start with the obvious: Tom Brady and the New England Patriots would love to have a player like A.J. Green.
Green exemplifies the Patriot Way. He's quiet, leads by example and is elite when healthy. He's the opposite of a player such as Antonio Brown, who the brass in New England were content to take a risk on last season.
The gamble on Brown speaks to the need in Foxborough. The Patriots spent a 2019 first-round pick on N'Keal Harry and acquired Mohamed Sanu Sr., Green's former teammate in Cincinnati, at the trade deadline. But there's no guarantee Harry becomes a big factor, and Sanu caught just 26 passes over eight games.
Money does have to enter the conversation. The Patriots have about $42 million in space, and much of that will presumably go to a new deal for Brady, who is a free agent. But given the quarterback's need for help in the twilight of his career, the Patriots should be able to pull off some restructures or moves to free up additional space to give Brady a potential top-15 wideout like Green.
Green Bay Packers
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers might have his critics, but he's still leagues ahead of anyone A.J. Green has been fortunate enough to play with.
That's but one alluring factor of his potential fit with Green Bay.
Those Packers are annual contenders until Rodgers hangs up the cleats, especially with an exciting young coach like Matt LaFleur to lead the way. Bad exit from the playoffs or not, making a conference title game on the back of 13 wins is surely attractive to any free agent.
The Packers have also shown a change of heart recently with the willingness to splurge on the open market, most notably bringing on pass-rushing forces Za'Darius Smith and Preston Smith. Shoving some of their approximately $29 million in cap space at Green is a no-brainer.
The wideout situation is otherwise largely a mess. Davante Adams hasn't played a full 16 games since 2016, and no other wideout on the team recorded even 500 receiving yards in 2019. Besides putting up his own numbers, Green would stress defenses into coughing up plenty for other targets as the playbook expands.
The Cincinnati Bengals and Buffalo Bills have a good relationship lately (Andy Dalton ended the Bills' playoff curse, the Cordy Glenn trade, etc.). If it comes down to a tag-and-trade situation with A.J. Green, this is an obvious outcome.
And Green might find it hard to complain.
The upstart Bills just won 10 games on the way to the playoffs and got an encouraging bump in play from quarterback Josh Allen. John Brown and Cole Beasley were an interesting duo at wideout, as each scored six touchdowns over 15 games, but the dynamic totally changes with a weapon like Green to line up all over the field.
Given Buffalo's trajectory, Green could swing things in the AFC East with New England's future a bit of an unknown. If nothing else, a talent like him can help Allen's progression as a pro and assure long-term success at the position just as he did for a young Andy Dalton in Cincinnati.
New Orleans Saints
The thought of a healthy A.J. Green and Michael Thomas on the same field is a little disgusting.
Given all the silliness that takes place in the NFL, don't count it out. If the New Orleans Saints get another year or two out of free agent Drew Brees, the front office will assuredly go all-out in pursuit of another Lombardi Trophy.
A weapon like Green could be a good way to take a serious step forward on the contention front. Brees completed 74.3 percent of his passes in 2019 with 27 touchdowns against just four interceptions. Thomas drummed up 1,725 yards with nine scores. But he was the only Saints wideout to crack the 500-yard mark.
Adding Green to the mix alters the dynamic in dramatic ways. The hurdle is money, because as of this writing, New Orleans only has about $12 million in space. But teams continually find ways to create more money. The Saints, even needing to sign Brees again, have repeatedly made it clear they're comfortable pushing massive cap hits to future years to contend now. Green would merely be the latest as a restructure here or there makes room.
San Francisco 49ers
The "rich get richer" idea usually holds up well in the NFL. Should the San Francisco 49ers land A.J. Green, it would fit such a narrative.
San Francisco is already on its way to a Super Bowl. Regardless of that result, its 2020 outlook would improve by adding Green to the mix.
Impressive as Kyle Shanahan has been with a healthy Jimmy Garoppolo (69.1 completion percentage, 27-13 touchdown-interception ratio) under center, throwing a weapon like Green into the scheme is another way to assure success in the uber-competitive NFC West.
Good as things were this season, only one 49ers wideout broke the 500-yard mark by a notable margin (Emmanuel Sanders had 502). As well, three Niners receivers will be free agents, including Sanders, who turns 33 in March.
Shanahan has shot down the idea the 49ers were in on Antonio Brown, but Green could be a different story. The 49ers only have about $16 million in cap space but don't figure to spend much on their own free agents, and the front office could always make moves to create more.