Former Cincinnati Bengals wideout A.J. Green is set to join Kliff Kingsbury, Kyler Murray, and co. with the Arizona Cardinals. The one-year deal is reportedly worth up to around $8 million, per Ian Rapaport. As free agency opens, the Cardinals continue to address their key offseason needs. Green looks to have filled a need for a number two receiver out in the desert.
Analyzing How A.J. Green Will Fit With the Arizona Cardinals
A.J. Green is undoubtedly one of the most accomplished wide receivers of his era. Drafted fourth overall in 2011, Green was selected to the Pro Bowl each of his first seven years in the league. This stretch also saw him named to the All-Pro second team on three occasions. In those seven years, Green eclipsed 1000 receiving yards in all but the 2016 season, establishing himself as one of the top wide receivers in the NFL.
Since 2017, Green’s productivity has waned slightly. This is, in no small part, due to a series of injuries suffered throughout the last three seasons. Despite contributing six touchdowns in 2018, 694 receiving yards that set a then-low watermark for Green. He played in only nine games that year before a recurring toe injury ended his season in Week 13. In 2019, Green suffered what was ultimately a season-ending injury during training camp. Suffering torn ligaments in his ankle, the former Georgia star was expected to miss only a handful of games. However, he was designated as inactive prior to every game, before finally being placed on Injured Reserve. Subsequently, he didn’t play at all in 2019.
Green lands with Arizona after a campaign that garnered career-lows in both touchdowns and receiving yards. Coming off an underwhelming season at 32, Green will hope to become a potent part of Arizona’s blossoming offense.
A Similar Offense
Standing at 6’4″, Green may tower over Arizona’s number one wideout DeAndre Hopkins, but the two players share an uncanny similarity to their game that Arizona can exploit. A prime A.J. Green regularly demonstrated a comparable skillset to what Hopkins has displayed in recent years for the Houston Texans and Arizona Cardinals.
Although productive, the Cardinals’ passing attack was often one-dimensional in 2020. Hopkins was the number one option on most plays, allowing opposing defenses to key to his side. Now, the Cardinals have the potential to offer a more balanced look, particularly in the red zone. Much like Hopkins, Green’s height and leaping ability, in addition to a strong pair of hands, make the former Bengal a viable, if not serious, red zone threat. Cardinals fans should look no further than Green’s Hail Mary grab against the Cleveland Browns in 2016, a catch with shades of Hopkins’ ‘Hail Murray’ in 2020.
Green has been productive down on the goal line throughout his career. He is shifty at the line of scrimmage, fluid throughout his routes and aggressive and reliable at the point of the catch. In adding another option for the opposition to consider, Arizona’s staff will hope the move will create more honest coverages that Hopkins can exploit.
Vertically Challenged No Longer
Aside from this, one aspect that Green could possibly add to a lacking Cardinals offense is the ability to play vertically. A significant knock on Kingsbury’s strategy in 2020 focused on the limited route tree across which Hopkins was deployed. With Hopkins confined to shallow routes and deep threats like Andy Isabella and Christian Kirk struggling for consistency, the 2020 Cardinals lacked the ability to stretch the field.
A.J. Green has a speed and sharpness that bemoans his size. Although his pace is perhaps not what it once was, he is more than capable of threatening to take the top off opposing defenses. His ability to track the ball is stellar, with an enormous catch radius providing security on downfield throws. He can blow by the coverage or opens up space underneath. Expect the latter to become an integral part of Arizona’s offense in 2021; Green combines his vertical threat with a refined route running ability in order to free up large areas of the field. This is an element of his game from which Hopkins and the rest of Arizona’s receiving corps can benefit.
A.J. Green Rejuvenated With Arizona Cardinals
As the face of the Bengals franchise for the best part of a decade, the Cardinals add a premier talent to their roster in A.J. Green. He may not be the elite level player he was in the mid-2010s, but he offers Arizona a solution regarding the passing offense. 2020 was a down year, but pairing Green with Hopkins could be a fruitful partnership for both sides; a role as Cincinnati’s ‘x’ receiver proved hefty for Green, especially coming off his lost season in 2019.
The Cardinals won’t expect the 32-year-old to be blowing the lid off the NFL’s secondaries, given his age and injury concerns. Yet, Green’s downfield ability teases big-play potential. The Cardinals now have a serviceable veteran who provides Kyler Murray with a credible second option as the Cardinals look to ramp up their challenge in the NFC West.
Embed from Getty Images