ProFootballDoc: A.J. Green Signs, But What Version Will We Get?

Cincinnati Bengals receiver AJ Green signed his franchise tender, without a long term contract extension, locking in a guarantee of about $18M for the upcoming season. Green, who has only played for the franchise since being drafted No. 4 overall in 2011, indicated he wanted to play four more years and finish his career with the team. 

For its part, Cincinnati placed the tag on Green in early March and let it ride out as the deadline passed. The move was certainly not without risk as Green has missed 23 of the last 24 team games with a balky ankle.

The soon-to-be-32-year old missed seven games in the 2018 season with an ankle injury before tearing ligaments in his right ankle on the first day of training camp last year. The injury required surgery and Green subsequently missed the entire 2019 season.

Certainly that is a scenario to worry about when a wide receiver's "wheels" are called into question.

Based on my video analysis of the injury and my interpretation of the reports, there is little worry about with Green. He will start training camp and the season healthy and should not experience any residual impact from the ankle. 

His high ankle sprain lingering long enough to miss the season is a potential worry but the ankle surgery was not on his ankle ligaments but a simple scope cleanup surgery for an associated issue or bone spur or loose chip. The recovery from this type of surgery and sprain is routine.

Even with the pandemic, Green, by rule has been allowed access to rehab and be examined by team physicians and the Bengals have a good handle on his health.

My belief is that Green could have returned last season but given the record of the Bengals as they headed to the first selection in the draft, there was no need to hurry a return. 

The bigger issue with Green is that he is north of 30 rather than any ankle or health issue.

For the first five seasons of his career, Green was elite. He averaged over 1,200 yards and nearly double-digit touchdowns. The last three seasons included just one full year with over 1,000 yards and eight scores sandwiched by a 10-game campaign that resulted in 66 catches for 964 yards and four scores and the 2018 season with career-low in yards, 694, and catches, 46.

Even with a new coach and quarterback the return to elite is not likely and perhaps the 2017 season may become the new norm for him.

Written by
David Chao, MD -- known digitally as Pro Football Doc -- is an expert contributor for Outkick. Chao spent 17 seasons as the team doctor for the San Diego Chargers (1997-2013) and is part of the medical team at OASIS in San Diego where he treats and specializes in orthopedic sports injuries, working with high-profile professional athletes from the NFL, NBA, and MLB.