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2020 NFL free agency: Bengals to use franchise tag on A.J. Green; keep one top wide receiver option away from Patriots

Related: Mohamed Sanu will reportedly have to undergo surgery on his ailing ankle

Cincinnati Bengals Vs. New England Patriots At Gillette Stadium Photo by Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

The New England Patriots’ wild card loss against the Tennessee Titans was a microcosm of the team’s 2019 season, and therefore a perfect illustration of what the team will have to do over the course of the offseason: one way or another, the Patriots’ offense needs to get better when it comes to moving the football through the air. Re-signing quarterback Tom Brady is a logical first step, but so is surrounding him with better weapons.

Luckily for New England, plenty of receiving talent is expected to enter both free agency and the draft. If the Patriots want to take to the open market to add to Brady’s arsenal, however, one of the most experienced options will reportedly not become available: according to a report by ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, the Cincinnati Bengals are set to place the franchise tag on wide receiver A.J. Green in case no long-term deal can be reached.

The move certainly makes sense for the Bengals even though Green missed all of 2019 due to a nagging ankle injury that first popped up in the summer. Still, the 31-year-old is one of the better wide receivers in the NFL when healthy and should help presumed first overall draft pick Joe Burrow make the transition from college to the NFL. Cincinnati keeping him on the one-year tag — one expected to be worth $18.5 million — is therefore no surprise.

New England, meanwhile, will have to look elsewhere to improve a pass-catching group that currently is led by veterans Julian Edelman and Mohamed Sanu — both having to undergo offseason surgery — as well as second-year men N’Keal Harry, Jakobi Meyers and Gunner Olszewski. At tight end, meanwhile, the Patriots have only two players under contract in Matt LaCosse and Ryan Izzo. Expect the team to add to both positions once free agency opens next month.