Coach Zac Taylor ‘very confident’ A.J. Green will be in Bengals uniform to start season

Cincinnati Bengals coach Zac Taylor is confident A.J. Green will be on the roster to start the 2020 season. He is less clear on the plans for quarterback Andy Dalton.

Speaking to media at the NFL Combine on Tuesday, Taylor didn’t hesitate at all when asked how confident he is that Green will be a Bengal in Week 1. Green missed all of last season because of an ankle injury suffered the first day of training camp and now is a pending free agent.

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Green has said he expects to get franchise tagged, which would need to happen before March 10 to tie him to the team for one year while contract negotiations potentially continue, but he is hopeful for a long-term deal. The Bengals likely want to make sure he is healthy first, as Green hasn’t played a game since Dec. 2, 2018, when he was shut down by a toe injury.

“(I’m) very confident,” Taylor said. “We want him to be a part of Cincinnati. He’s got a great history with the organization. He’s been a great member of the community, a great leader on our team. Even facing the adversity he faced the last year and a half, he’s been around in all the meetings. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know A.J. I look forward to coaching A.J. really for the first time going into next season. We’re still working through the process with him, but we know he’s going to be a Bengal come September.”

Asked if Green’s situation needs settled before moving on to contracts for other pending free agents, director of player personnel Duke Tobin said the team has its priorities and will try to get as many of those situations resolved as possible.

Taylor said he has a better idea what he needs now after having a full year with the team, and that’s where the draft and free agency come into play as he looks to supplement the roster.

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“To call him the No. 1 domino, it’s tough to say,” Taylor said. “He’s a big piece of that puzzle, but we’re certainly doing a really good job of evaluating our needs and how we can help ourselves.”

The seven-time Pro Bowler would be a valuable asset to a young quarterback if the Bengals do draft Joe Burrow as expected with the No. 1 pick. Burrow said Tuesday he would like having Green as a receiver if that does happen.

That leads to the question of what to do with Dalton, who came into the league with Green in 2011 as a second-round draft pick and still has two years left on his contract. Tobin said he wants “to do right by Andy Dalton” but said he doesn’t have a timetable on when a decision will be made on his future.

“We want to be very respectful of what he’s done for us and what he wants to do going forward,” Tobin said.

“I don’t think we’ve got timetable on it,” he added. “We’ve got to go through the draft process and see where that leaves us and see what options would be available. He’s a guy who is so important to us and I don’t rule him out from being a Cincinnati Bengal next year and leading our team. We’ll go through the process and when we have clarity we’ll make it known.”

Tobin did not want to say whether teams have inquired about trading Dalton. Dalton believes he can still be an NFL starter and would like the chance to move on if the Bengals don’t intend to keep him in that role.

Dalton is one of a slew of veteran quarterbacks who are potentially going on the market this offseason.

“It seems like there will be a lot of musical chairs maybe there,” Tobin said. “We’ll see what’s there when the music stops. Andy is such an important guy and such a good guy for us that we’re going to work with him and keep him up to date on what our plans are. Anytime you are at the top of the draft you have to consider every position and that’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to consider every position and determine see what we think is best for us going forward.”

Taylor said it would be fair to have a decision by training camp, but he also didn’t want to put a timetable on it. He’s spoken to Dalton several times over the offseason, he said, but there hasn’t been much to update him on yet.

The Bengals don’t necessarily need an experienced veteran behind Burrow or any quarterback they draft, Taylor said, while also noting they feel like they “have a really strong quarterback room right now with Andy, Ryan (Finley) and Jake (Dolegala).”

“That’s a great starting point for us right now going into the offseason,” Taylor said. “We’ve got guys that we believe in. It’s a really good room. However it shakes out, we’re going to have a really good room. I understand that question, but we’ve got coaches with a ton of experience as well, that have coached the position for a long time and are ready to help them.”

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