In our 2020 iteration of Finding Free Agents, we’ll attempt to answer three questions for each player: Why would the Seahawks be interested? What might their contract look like? What is the likelihood they reach free agency? Throughout the series, we’ll be focused on specific positions of need in Seattle: Wide receiver, tight end, offensive line and EDGE.
To kick off this year’s series on potential free agent targets, we’ll start with one of the biggest names due to hit unrestricted free agency. A.J. Green missed all of 2019 with a foot injury, but the longtime Bengal has been durable throughout his terrific career. Unfortunately for Green, his lost season came in a contract year, as his four-year, $60M extension signed in 2015 winds down. Fortunately, he has been uber-productive over the course of his nine year career and will not be short on suitors, should he reach free agency.
Why would the Seahawks be interested?
The obvious: Green is a superstar whose game will age gracefully; he has averaged 75 catches, 1,113 yards and just under eight touchdowns per season in his career; and Seattle has a need at wide receiver.
Even beyond the immediate, “Obviously, he’s A.J. Green,” reaction, Green would be an excellent fit with the Seahawks. Though DK Metcalf developed positively over the second half of the season as a possession receiver, that isn’t where he primarily wins. Green can, and does, win all over the field, including in contested catch situations—he has the kind of catch radius Russell Wilson would quickly trust and adore (as he did with Sidney Rice for a short while).
Green’s skill set would be a wonderful compliment to Tyler Lockett and Metcalf in three wide receiver sets, and he would likely be the best wide receiver Wilson has ever had, even at age 32.
Green’s pop-off-the-screen talent aside, the Seahawks should be interested for the contract fit, too.
What might Green’s contract look like?
Seattle is in a welcome salary cap situation entering free agency with, in all likelihood, over $70M in space to work with. While a few obvious needs will eat into that figure, the Seahawks have plenty of room to acquire a high-priced free agent, such as Green.
The natural comparison for Green throughout his career has been Julio Jones: Both played in the SEC and were selected in the top-six of the 2011 NFL Draft; they both have been utterly dominant; and both signed new, big money deals in 2015. Prior to the 2019 season, Jones agreed to an extension worth $66M over three years—with $64M fully guaranteed. Green is unlikely to reach that figure for a variety of reasons, but the length is what should appeal to Seattle.
The Seahawks can certainly afford to offer Green a competitive deal in the $18M average per year range, and a three-year deal would be perfect, as it would likely protect Seattle should Green’s production decline, such is their habit of front-loading guarantees.
Will Green reach free agency?
Though Green never suited up for Cincinnati head coach Zac Taylor, he may be open to returning to play for him in 2020. Not only will the Bengals, more than likely, have the first overall pick in Joe Burrow, but Taylor did a great job of leaving the door open for Green to return from his injury—he wasn’t placed on injured reserve until Week 17—without putting the onus on Green. That resonates with players, however, speaking to Cincinnati’s official website after he was placed on I.R., Green made it clear he would sit out OTAs and perhaps into training camp should the tag be placed on him.
In all likelihood, the Bengals will make every effort to retain Green in order to pair Burrow with the star wideout—Taylor has made that abundantly clear. The tag may temporarily be used, but Cincinnati’s brass will surely do everything they can to sign him to another long-term extension. Should the Bengals risk it, however, and allow Green to hit unrestricted free agency? If they do, look for the brazen John Schneider to be in touch with Green’s agent.