Former Pro Bowl wideout AJ Green injured his ankle very early in 2019 training camp and wouldn’t play a down for Cincinnati. He’s healthy now and has a new starting QB. Here are Green’s odds at Mybookie to win 2020 NFL Comeback Player of the Year as well as the Bengals’ over/under win total.
Green was the No. 4 overall pick in the 2011 draft by Cincinnati out of Georgia. He was named to the Pro Bowl as a rookie, the first rookie receiver to make a Pro Bowl appearance in eight years at the time. From 2011-2013, Green caught more passes (260) than any other player in NFL history during their first three seasons, though that record was later broken by Jarvis Landry.
Green’s streak of seven consecutive Pro Bowl nominations to begin career ended in 2018, as he was not selected, but he still stands as the only NFL wideout since the 1970 merger to start his career with seven consecutive Pro Bowl nominations. Those seven Pro Bowl selections are third in team history behind defensive tackle Geno Atkins (eight) and Hall of Fame offensive tackle Anthony Munoz (11).
Green was limited to just nine games in 2018, due to a toe injury (right foot). And on the first day of 2019 training camp, Green went down with an ankle injury. Green suffered the injury after he ran down the sideline and tried to catch a pass thrown by quarterback Andy Dalton during the last portion of 7-on-7 drills. Cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick broke up the throw and the two players fell to the ground. It didn’t seem all that serious, but Green would never make it back last season.
The Bengals carried Green on the active roster for 16 weeks to keep alive the possibility of a return, but a setback ultimately ended that possibility and he was placed on Reserve/Injured list Dec. 23.
Green was set for free agency this offseason, but the Bengals slapped the franchise tag on him. This was expected with the sides nowhere close in long-term talks. Green would make $17.9 million if he plays 2020 under the tag. The sides have until July 15 to work out a long-term deal. There have been reports Green wants out of Cincinnati, so signing him to an extension isn’t going to be easy. Green has audibly expressed his frustrations with the organization.
It’s only the third time the Bengals have used the franchise tag since Green was drafted in 2011. In 2012 they gave it to kicker Mike Nugent and then the next year to defensive end Michael Johnson.
On the bright side, Bengals coach Zac Taylor has said Green is “fully healthy.” Green also will have a new starting QB this season in No. 1 overall pick Joe Burrow. Among overall No. 1 picks who were quarterbacks since the common draft in 1967, only Kyler Murray last season had a more prolific wide receiver than Green in Larry Fitzgerald.
“I’ve watched him the last two years in the SEC. He beat up my Bulldogs a couple of times,” says Green of Burrow. “He’s one of the best. With his attitude toward the game, the adversity he went through to get to where he is, you’ve got to appreciate that from a guy who’s been an underdog to being an (overall) No. 1 draft pick and Heisman Trophy winner. You have to respect his grind and his process the way he goes about his business each day.”
Green enters 2020 ranked second in team history in career receptions (602) and receiving yards (8907), and tied for second in receiving TDs (63); Chad Johnson, who played 10 Bengals seasons, is first in all three categories — 751 catches, 10,783 yards and 66 receiving TDs.
Cincinnati opens the season as a 3-point home underdog on Sept. 13 vs. the Los Angeles Chargers.