The future is unclear for some of the Bengals top players as coach Zac Taylor prepares for his first full offseason with the team, but A.J. Green hasn’t changed his stance.
As the 31-year-old wide receiver nears the end of his four-year, $60 million contract, set to expire March 18, he maintains he wants to finish his career in Cincinnati. The Bengals have until March 10 to franchise tag him and bind him to the team for one year. Green doesn’t plan to participate in offseason workouts until he has a long-term deal in place.
Green missed the entire season with an ankle injury suffered the first day of training camp and was limited to nine games in 2018 because of a toe injury, but says he is still the same player who earned seven Pro Bowl selections.
“It’s a business,” Green said Monday following exit physicals and final team meetings for this season at Paul Brown Stadium. “I would love to be here. But there’s a business side of football. I can’t put myself in that position (risking injury without a long-term deal). But I hope not. I know I’m getting franchised, and then we can get this thing rolling and I can get back here in the spring and get back to playing football.”
Running back Joe Mixon, a second-round pick in 2017, won’t become a free agent until 2021 but has proven his value to the organization in back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons and now is starting to think about his future.
The Bengals gave Tyler Boyd, another building block for the offense, a contract extension in July before entering the final season of his original contract, and he followed through with his second straight 1,000-yard receiving campaign. Mixon would like similar treatment but isn’t to the point of deciding he will press the matter.
“I want to be a Bengal for life,” Mixon said. “I haven’t really thought (about) an extension. Right now, is definitely the time to start getting into it. I don’t know much about the extension part. I just have to go in and hopefully we work something out. I just wish for the best. The ball is in their court, not mine.
»ARCHDEACON: Mixon takes out referee, Browns in season finale
“I just hope I’ve put up enough tape for them to believe in me to want me back, you know what I’m saying? I don’t know their thought process. If I did, I mean, I’d love to. But I don’t. At the end of the day, no matter what happens, I know I gave my all out there. I know what kind of (running) back I am. I hope they know. We’re going to see, man. I don’t know anything about logistics or anything like that. But we’re going to see.”
Mixon showed no sign of quitting despite the frustrations and struggles of a two-win season for the team. He had 320 yards through the first eight games and 817 yards over the last eight games.
Asked if he too would hold out for a contract extension, Mixon said he would need to talk that over with his agent. Boyd did not sit out of any offseason workouts.
“I would love to be here and work with the team,” Mixon said. “At the end of the day, I’ve always been all about the team. But if it comes to a point where I gotta think about me, that’s just what’s going to have to happen. But like I said, I hope the best. I hope we work something out. Like I said, I haven’t really thought that stuff over but I will go talk to my agent, have a talk with him. That’s what I pay him for, to talk to the upstairs people for that. Like I said, the ball is in their court. I’m not pressed over no contract, none of that. At the end of the day, I just gotta continue to be me and hope for the best. Like I said, the ball is in their court.”
Quarterback Andy Dalton still doesn’t know what the team has planned for his future. He remains under contract for one more year but very well could have played his last game in a Bengals uniform with Sunday’s 33-23 win over the Browns. He wanted to be traded when he was benched during the Week 9 bye, and although he returned to the starting role after a three-game experiment with rookie Ryan Finley, his days appeared numbered even before the Bengals locked up the No. 1 pick in the draft. Expectations are the team will take Heisman winner Joe Burrow and Dalton’s contract ($17.7 million) could prove restrictive to the budget.
Dalton shook the hands of media members in the locker room Monday, saying his goodbyes “just in case.” After making his rounds, he finished with a hug from Green, grabbed his things and left, saying with a laugh, “See you in April!” on his way out.
Taylor didn’t provide any more clarity Monday on how he and the front office plan to handle upcoming personnel decisions that need to be made, but said the first step is evaluating the roster and the staff and then preparing for free agency and the draft.
Other players set to become free agents this offseason include tight end Tyler Eifert, cornerback Darqueze Dennard, defensive linemen Kerry Wynn and Andrew Billings and linebackers Nick Vigil and LaRoy Reynolds.
“Those are things we get a chance to talk through this week, so we’re all on the same page and make those decisions, but right now, I don’t have anything further on that stuff,” Taylor said. “… We’re still ironing everything out and making sure we get a chance to really evaluate ourselves and make the best decisions going forward.”
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