Could a stacked free-agent class push A.J. Green back to the Bengals?

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Chris Roling
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It’s easy, safe even, to think A.J. Green won’t be back with the Cincinnati Bengals in 2021.

But what if the market decides otherwise?

Sure, Green was largely a non-factor in 2020 despite staying healthy. He caught just 47 of his 104 targets for 523 yards and two scores, finishing third on the team in receiving. Fit with Joe Burrow, fit in the offense and maybe a combination of how coaches wanted to use him and his diminished ability led to the poor showing.

No matter the reasoning, the fact a 33-year-old wideout struggled like that won’t be lost on teams looking for help.

And it’s an incredible year to need a wideout. These are some of the names besides Green slated to be free agents:

  • Chris Godwin

  • Allen Robinson

  • Kenny Golladay

  • Corey Davis

  • Marvin Jones

  • Curtis Samuel

  • Antonio Brown

  • Josh Gordon

  • Larry Fitzgerald

  • Sammy Watkins

  • TY Hilton

  • JuJu Smith-Schuster

  • Will Fuller

Some of these guys will get locked down via tags or extensions, of course. But pair it with a good-looking incoming wideout draft class too and Green could end up having a muted market. Looking at the above list, how many of those names can we 100 percent say Green is better than right now?

Maybe Green shakes loose of the Bengals, finds the right fit and erupts back to No. 1 wideout status. But the team just paid him north of $18 million to do so and got little back. Perhaps it’s more likely he doesn’t have as many suitors as some would expect and one of the realistic plans is to fall back and re-up with the Bengals.

The Bengals (Mike Brown, particular), like their modern franchise legends and keep them around, so it’s hard to say the team wouldn’t want Green back on a cheaper deal, even if he’s sparingly used. If nothing else, it’s something to keep in mind when accounting for the context of a great free-agent class.

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