Arizona Cardinals
Will A.J. Green be a difference-maker for Kyler Murray and the Cardinals?
Arizona Cardinals

Will A.J. Green be a difference-maker for Kyler Murray and the Cardinals?

Updated Mar. 19, 2021 2:21 p.m. ET

Cardinal red mixed with a little bit of Green equals Christmas in Arizona. 

The Arizona Cardinals signed veteran superstar receiver A.J. Green on Thursday to a one-year deal worth up to $8.5 million, with $6 million guaranteed. 

The 33-year-old Green spent the first 10 years of his career with the Cincinnati Bengals and put up historic numbers for the franchise. 

He is first in Bengals history in receiving yards per game (74.3) and second in receptions (649), receiving yards (9,430) and receiving touchdowns (65), categories led by Chad Johnson, who had 10,783 receiving yards, 751 receptions and 66 touchdowns in his 10-year stint in Cincinnati.

However, Johnson played in 151 games as a Bengal, while Green played in 127.

In addition, Green made the Pro Bowl every year from his rookie season to 2017 and was named second-team All-Pro in 2012, 2013 and 2015. 

But after 2017, injuries began to derail his dominant stretch as one of the game's greatest pass-catchers, and his last three seasons in Cincinnati represented the worst of his illustrious career.


After accumulating more than 1,000 receiving yards in six of his first seven professional years – he finished with 964 receiving yards in 10 games in 2017 – and missing just 10 games in his first seven years, Green has played in only 23 of the Bengals' past 48 games.

He started nine games in 2018 while battling a toe injury, posting 46 receptions and 694 receiving yards, both career lows at the time.

Green missed the entire 2019 season because of an ankle injury.

He played 16 games in 2020, starting in 14, but caught just 47 balls for a career-low 523 yards and two touchdowns, also a career worst. 

Needless to say, Green will take to the desert in 2021 looking for a career rebirth alongside third-year quarterback Kyler Murray and superstar wideout DeAndre Hopkins

Last season, Murray and Hopkins represented one of the most dynamic QB-WR duos in the NFL.

Hopkins finished second in the league in receptions (115) and third in receiving yards (1,407).  Those 1,407 yards were the third-most in a season in his career, and the 115 catches tied for most in a season in his career. 

Murray also took his game to the next level in his sophomore season, increasing his completion percentage (64.4% to 67.2%), touchdowns (20 to 26), passing yards per game (232.6 to 248.2) and passer rating (87.4 to 94.3) from his rookie campaign. 

Just how much will the Cardinals benefit from having Green in the fold? 

Shannon Sharpe first wants to see what version of Green shows up in Arizona, and he wondered why the Bengals would move on from Green if he still has juice in his tank. 

"Why would Cincinnati let him go? They got a young quarterback. ... What A.J. Green are you getting? If you get the guy from 2011-2017, hell, yea. He helps them! ... But in the sport of football, guys don't get healthier as they get older if they've been beat to hell earlier in their career."

Skip Bayless was on the other side of the fence, saying Green's most recent season shouldn't serve as a barometer for where he is in his career, considering that the Bengals were rebuilding with rookie quarterback Joe Burrow, who was injured in Week 10, which left the team to rely on Brandon Allen and Ryan Finley under center. 

"I believe [Arizona is] going to get 85% of A.J. Green. I'd like to think 90%. Yes, A.J. Green was beaten up in Cincinnati, but I think he was beaten up psychologically and mentally, as well as physically. ... And what happened last year? Well, they were just sorry. They started a rookie quarterback, the first overall pick, Joe Burrow – but he was a rookie. And he got the you-know-what kicked outta him."

Bayless also pointed to the rejuvenation of Tom Brady's career in Tampa Bay as reason Green might benefit from a new environment.

"Every time I watched the Bengals, [Green's] body language was just pathetic. It said, 'I don't wanna be here anymore.' ... So now it's what I keep calling 'The Tom Brady Effect.' Everybody sat back and said, 'Brady did that? He went to Tampa and took that 7-9 team and did that?' He was rejuvenated. ... Here's A.J. Green. He was only with the one team, and let's see what happens now."

The Cardinals play in arguably the toughest division in the NFL, alongside Seattle, San Francisco and the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC West. 

Arizona finished 8-8 last season but went just 2-4 in the division after a 5-10-1 campaign and a 1-5 mark in the division in 2019.

Time will tell if Green's new deal will get Arizona over the hump.


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