Sometimes a change of scenery is good. Both the Bengals and A.J. Green hope it's the case following Wednesday's news.
Green will sign a one-year, $8 million deal with Arizona Cardinals according to multiple reports.
The 32-year-old spent a decade with the Bengals organization. Unfortunately, two of his playing years were wasted in Cincinnati.
The 2019 season wasn't anyone's fault. Injuries are synonymous with playing in the NFL. For most, it's not a matter of if an injury will happen, but when.
Green missed all of 2019, but reported to training camp 100% healthy. Some believed he'd bounce back from the injuries and look like his old self, but the offense didn’t favor the seven-time Pro Bowler like it had in previous seasons.
His frustration was visible for most of the 2020 season. When you look at his numbers, it's easy to see why. He had a clean bill of health, but caught just 47 of his 104 targets for 523 yards and two touchdowns.
Green carried the Bengals' offense for years. Suddenly he was an afterthought.
“The thing we all have to remember, when you have such young coaches, sometimes it doesn’t hurt to go back and see what other people have done with him to maximize his talents,” Bengals former tight end coach Jonathan Hayes told AllBengals. “I think that’s where some of the frustration came in. He is one of your playmakers, even though he came off injury, it's important to realize he is still one of the elite playmakers in the game.”
The cameras may have picked up on his frustration, but teammates like Alex Erickson, who spent five years with Green in Cincinnati, said the star wide receiver always played hard, regardless of the circumstances.
“A guy like that could go up to top management and complain if he wanted to because he has that presence, but he never did. He never said one word about it. He just showed up to work every single day and at times he got frustrated like all of us do,” Erickson said. “Not having the success that he wants individually and as a team, it weighs on you because you put a lot of time and effort in. He never complained to us, and that says a lot about his character because he doesn’t put himself above the team.”
Green was the go-to option on roughly 8-10 offensive plays per game for eight seasons, which included multiple downfield opportunities depending on how the opponent was playing him.
Green didn't have a catch in nearly a third (5-of-16) of the Bengals' games in 2020.
“Not to get into a ton of details, but I think he’s still got a lot of good ball left in him and the level of play is still high,” Erickson said. "I don’t know if the offense suited him as well as other offenses have in the past. There are a lot of different variables that go into that.”
Hayes believes communication could've been an issue. The veteran coach has known and worked with Green for the better part of a decade. He noticed something was off in 2020.
“The people around you have to know and be part of the plan so they can prepare themselves whether they’re being used as a decoy or they’re going to actually be a part of the plan, and you could see the frustration at times. Obviously not vocally, but through body language,” Hayes explained. “I wasn’t in the locker room. I wasn’t in those meetings, but I feel like, looking at some of the responses with how guys looked with their body language throughout games—that was telling, at least to me.”
Green had an incredible run in Cincinnati. He was a reliable target for former Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton, eclipsing 1,000 yards in six of his first seven seasons while making seven Pro Bowls and three All-Pro teams.
He was a locker room leader as well. He wasn’t the type of player who partied hard or got into trouble in the offseason. He’s a family man who has his priorities in order.
“Here is a guy who has been great for this town, for this team, for the community, and does so many great things quietly,” Hayes said. “He never brings a lot of attention to himself. He’s never about ‘me, me, me’ and as soon as there’s a rough patch, everyone is saying it’s his fault. Well, in the prior years, he’s never had an issue with any of these things.”
There is a strong possibility that a fresh start in Arizona will revitalize Adriel Jeremiah Green's career.
Don’t expect him to come out and gloat if he bounces back in Arizona.
“It’s always about the team," Erickson said. "It always has been and always will be with him."
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