1:21pm: The Bengals have made it official, announcing that Green has been extended through the 2019 season (Twitter link).
12:20pm: With a late-afternoon deadline looming, the Bengals and A.J. Green will beat the clock, according to Jim Owczarski of the Cincinnati Enquirer, who reports (via Twitter) that the two sides have agreed to a contract extension. Green becomes the latest star wideout to receive a new deal this summer, in the wake of extensions for Demaryius Thomas, Dez Bryant, Julio Jones and T.Y. Hilton.
According to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (via Twitter), Green’s extension will be a four-year deal worth $60MM, which would give him an average annual salary of $15MM. That figure likely doesn’t include his 2015 salary of $10.176MM, which would bring the total value of his next five years to about $70MM, and we’ll have to wait for further details to find out whether $60MM represents the base value or max value. But it appears Green did very well, exceeding the $14MM-per-year salaries that Thomas and Bryant landed.
Owczarski wrote yesterday that, while the Bengals were willing to meet that $14MM+ benchmark in terms of annual salary, the guaranteed money involved in the agreement may be a sticking point. Cincinnati is typically reluctant to give out significant guaranteed money on contract extensions, with even quarterback Andy Dalton getting a modest $17MM guarantee on his new $96MM deal last year.
It will be interesting to see what portion of Green’s new pact is fully guaranteed up front, and how much is guaranteed for injury only. Rapoport tweets that the Bengals “stepped up with significant first-year money” in order to make up for not guaranteeing as much. The club traditionally doesn’t do full guarantees beyond the first year of a contract, and Green’s fifth-year option for 2015 had already been guaranteed.
The fourth overall pick out of Georgia in 2011, Green has made four consecutive Pro Bowls since entering the league. After catching 97 balls in 2012 and 98 in 2013, he was slowed down last year with injuries, finishing with 1,041 yards and six touchdowns on 69 receptions. With the 2015 season about to get underway, the 27-year-old looks healthy and poised for a big year, so it wasn’t surprising that the Bengals wanted to get something done before Week 1.
The star wideout had said earlier in the summer that he’d be willing to play out the final year of his rookie contract, while the team seemed more eager to work something out this year. If he hadn’t agreed to an extension in 2015, Green would have been a strong candidate for the franchise tag in the winter, at which time the two sides would have re-engaged in negotiations on a multiyear deal.
Instead, the Bengals will have Green locked up through the 2019 season, at which point he’ll be eligible for free agency again. If Green’s contract expires after ’19 without a second extension in place, he’d be eligible to hit the open market at age 31.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.