NFL free agency: Should 49ers pursue Bengals' A.J. Green in offseason?




 

A.J. Green last played in an NFL game on Dec. 2, 2018. He injured his toe that game and underwent season-ending surgery shortly after.

Green then missed all of last season as the Cincinnati Bengals' star receiver dealt with an ankle injury. And yet, he's one of the biggest names set to hit free agency. So, should the 49ers go take a run at signing the seven-time Pro Bowler?

Talent-wise, yes. But it's not that simple.

Green, who turns 32 years old on July 31, has played nine games the last two seasons. He has missed 29 games since 2016 and isn't getting any younger. But he also is one of the most talented receivers in the league when healthy.

The former No. 4 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft started his career with five straight seasons of at least 1,000 receiving yards. He was well on pace to extending that streak in 2016 when he had 964 receiving yards in 10 games and then had 1,078 in 2017.

San Francisco simply doesn't have any receivers with his kind of pedigree. Deebo Samuel opened eyes as a rookie, and he is dangerous with the ball in his hands. The 49ers have to add talent around the young South Carolina product, though.

Green also is the kind of large target coach Kyle Shanahan hopes to add for quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. Samuel is listed at 5-foot-11 and 214 pounds. Green, however, is 6-4 and 210 pounds.

One NFL executive believes Green hopes to move on from the Bengals this offseason, too.

"I think he wants out of Cincinnati," the exec told ESPN's Jeremy Fowler.

That, however, isn't in Bengals coach Zac Taylor's plans.

"He's a guy that we're excited about to have part of this team, first and foremost. That's what matters right now," Taylor said Thursday in his interview on the '"Bengals Beat Podcast." "As we go through the offseason, we'll figure out how it best fits. But right now, we expect him to be a part of the team. We want him to be a part of the team.

"He's certainly been a valuable member for the last couple years and done some great things. I'm excited to coach him, really for the first time this next season."

Green signed a four-year, $60 million contract with the Bengals in 2015. He will be an unrestricted free agent for the first time this offseason, and the veteran still could sign another hefty contract. The same executive told ESPN that "even 'B' receivers are getting $14 million to $15 million."

The 49ers currently have just under $17.9 million available in cap space this offseason, according to Spotrac. San Francisco also has its own contracts to take care of in free agent Arik Armstead, as well as extensions for George Kittle and DeForest Buckner.

[RELATED: Why 49ers could add Gabriel to receiver mix this offseason]

One way or another, the 49ers should look to give Jimmy G more weapons this offseason. This year's NFL draft class is loaded with receivers and the front office could make that their priority with their first pick. There's no doubt Green could be a great option in free agency, but it all comes down to health.

"As long as the foot checks out, he's still elite," an NFC personnel evaluator said to ESPN.

That's a big if, though. Green is one talented question mark.

NFL free agency: Should 49ers pursue Bengals' A.J. Green in offseason? originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

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