The New England Patriots need to improve their wide receiver situation, there is no way around it. Even if unrestricted free agents Chris Hogan, Phillip Dorsett and Cordarrelle Patterson return to offer depth alongside Super Bowl MVP Julian Edelman, the unit needs an infusion of youth and talent. At least the latter gets addressed in a trade proposal put forward by advanced analytics website Football Outsiders.
In a piece titled Daring moves for all 32 NFL teams this offseason written for ESPN In$ider, the Patriots are listed with a big move: trading multiple day two draft selections to the Cincinnati Bengals to acquire wide receiver A.J. Green. The rationale behind the proposed acquisition is explained as follows:
Green is probably the most approachable of the star wideouts that could be had, and the Steelers have already said they’re not trading Antonio Brown to the Patriots. Green is coming off season-ending injuries in two of his past three seasons, and without Andrew Whitworth, the Bengals’ offense has imploded, failing to give Andy Dalton time to spot Green deep. Green’s still an electric talent, and turning 31 before July, he might be ready to become a ring-chaser. There’s no better place to do that than in Foxborough, perhaps for the price of a second- and a future third-round pick.
Green is certainly an intriguing player as his talent and past production cannot be denied. For years he was the Bengals’ best offensive player — one that averages 75.3 receptions for 1,113 yards and 7.9 touchdowns per season over the course of his eight-year career. Despite catching the vast majority of his passes from average-at-best quarterback Andy Dalton, the seven-time Pro Bowler consistently put up outstanding numbers year-in and year-out.
As tempting as making a move for Green seems when looking at the stat sheet, however, there are three factors speaking against New England making such a deal — especially if second and third round draft picks were involved:
1. Green’s age: Turning 31 in July, the veteran wideout might be more of a stop-gap solution at the position than a longer-term option. That in itself might not be that big of a problem for the club, but factors number two and three in combination with his age could very well turn New England away from making such a transaction in case it ever comes up.
2. Green’s contract: In 2015, Green signed a four-year, $60 million extension with the Bengals — the last year of which he is entering right now. Not only would the Patriots potentially have to extend the former first-round draft pick in a year, they would also look at a salary cap hit of $12.2 million for the 2019 season. Signing him to an extension upon arrival would therefore be imperative, but would a) the team really do this without that quickly, and b) Green really be willing to sign a deal now when he is about to hit the open market in a year?
3. Green’s injury history: For most of his eight seasons in Cincinnati, Green was as reliable a player as they come. Lately, however, injuries have been an issue for the former fourth overall draft pick. In 2016, he was placed on season-ending injured reserve due to a hamstring injury. Last year, he hurt his toe and was able to appear in just nine games because of the issue.
All in all, A.J. Green would likely be a tremendous addition to the Patriots’ offense due to his athletic skill set and outstanding route running. Playing as an X-receiver alongside players like Tom Brady and receiving weapons Julian Edelman, James White and (potentially) Rob Gronkowski, the 30-year old would be in an ideal situation to return to his Pro Bowl form. There is little doubt he could offer a similar presence to Josh Gordon, without the obvious question marks.
That being said, the combination of age, contract, injury history, and asking price might be a bit too much for New England’s liking. Consequently, it would not be a surprise if the team would rather go after another former first-round wide receiver currently under contract with the Bengals: John Ross.