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Two Smarts and a Dumb: The Three Options The Bengals Have With AJ Green

The AJ Green and Larry Fitzgerald comparisons have been flying around cyberspace this week. Why? Because the Bengals just played the Cardinals, and Larry is a great receiver who stuck around with the same dismal franchise for his entire career.

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AJ Green’s contract expires at the end of this season and as the NFL’s Trade Deadline approaches (Oct. 29), the Bengals need to make a decision.

In terms of making smart decisions, they have two options: They can either trade AJ Green for a healthy serving of draft picks, or offer him a contract extension. If they trade him, it will likely be to a Super Bowl contender who has the option to rent him for the rest of the season and then hope he chooses to sign with them long term. If we extend him, Mike Brown will have to empty out his pockets and he becomes the face of the franchise.

Julio Jones just got a three-year, $66 million extension from Atlanta, $64 million of which is guaranteed. The Jones contract was a huge win for NFL players and agents, and a big loss for NFL owners, who have somehow skated by this long without offering guaranteed contracts. Is Mike Brown willing to pay a non-quarterback that type of guaranteed money? We’ll find out.

Notice I said “in terms of smart decisions” above, that’s because there is a third, dumb option for the Bengals and AJ. They can just keep him on his current contract and let him walk at the end of the year, just like Andrew Whitworth and Marvin Jones have done in recent years. This would be an especially boneheaded move, because if we keep AJ and let him walk, he will probably get us at least 1-4 wins, which could potentially lose us the #1 draft pick. We would also miss a great opportunity to load up Zac Taylor with young talent if we were to trade AJ for picks.

If we extend him, the best case scenario is a Larry Fitzgerald situation. The Cardinals have had many different eras with Larry on the team. They had the Jake Plummer era, the Super Bowl team with Anquan and Kurt, the Carson Palmer era and now the current rebuild. It’s possible to go through transitions with a highly paid skill position guy on the roster. It’s wishful thinking for the Bengals, but it’s possible. What if we choose correctly between Tua, Lawrence, Burrow or Herbert? Who knows where that could take us.

Basically, the only thing the Bengals shouldn’t do is keep AJ around for the season without extending him. It makes no sense and would actually be detrimental to the team. Now, will this end up being what the Bengals do? History sadly leans toward yes. Only time will tell, but let’s hope Mike Brown chooses to either lock up AJ long term, or trade him for assets.

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