Arizona Cardinals' signing of A.J. Green slammed in NFL free agency grades

Jeremy Cluff
Arizona Republic
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The Arizona Cardinals made a splash on Wednesday when they signed veteran free agent wide receiver A.J. Green to a one-year deal.

It just wasn't a big splash, according to some NFL writers, who slammed the move in their NFL free agency grades.

Green, 32, has played all nine of his seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals after entering the league as the fourth-overall pick of the 2011 draft.

He missed the entire 2019 season after tearing ligaments in his ankle during training camp. 

Touchdown Wire's Doug Farrar was not impressed with the signing, giving it a D.

He wrote: "A.J. Green made the Pro Bowl in each of his first seven seasons in the NFL, which is pretty remarkable when you consider that Andy Dalton was his primary quarterback through that time. From 2011 through 2017, Green ranked fourth in targets (949), fifth in receptions (556), fourth in receiving yards (8,213), and sixth in touchdowns (57). At his peak, Green was unquestionably one of the best receivers in football, but his age 32 season with the Bengals was his worst by far. Last season, Green caught just 47 passes on 104 targets for 523 yards and two touchdowns. He hasn’t played all 16 games in a season since 2017, and it’s a mystery as to why the Cardinals would spend $6 million guaranteed on a one-year to find out if 2020 was an aberration."

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Bleacher Report's Gary Davenport was a little bit nicer in his analysis. He gave the signing a C-.

He wrote: "Few things are more difficult for fans than when a franchise legend leaves in free agency—even if that player has shown he is well past his prime.

That makes this a dark day in the Queen City. After a decade in Cincinnati that included six 1,000-yard seasons and seven trips to the Pro Bowl, veteran wide receiver A.J. Green has agreed to a one-year, $6 million pact to join the Arizona Cardinals. Incentives could push the deal to $8 million. Under Kliff Kingsbury, the Cardinals use as many sets with three and four wide receivers as any team in the NFL. And with Larry Fitzgerald a free agent, the Redbirds have a hole to fill at wide receiver. But Green's 2020 season in Cincinnati was inarguably the worst of his career. He caught 47 of 104 targets, averaged a career-low 11.1 yards a catch and scored just two touchdowns. Other wideouts on the market would have been a better use of Arizona's dwindling salary-cap resources than gambling that Green has one more big year left in the tank."

A.J. Green's deal with the Arizona Cardinals in free agency left some NFL writers shaking their heads.

Pro Football Focus gave the Cardinals a "below average" grade for the deal.

It wrote: "The 32-year-old who took the field last season for Cincinnati was not the same player who dominated for much of the past decade. It quickly became clear in Green's return from a missed 2019 season that he couldn’t create separation as easily as before, meaning he would have to win at the catch point. No stat encapsulates that more than 40.6% of Green’s targets in 2020 being contested — nearly five percentage points higher than any other receiver with at least 50 targets. Green brought in a respectable 19 of his 41 contested targets, and that’s how he will have to win in Arizona. All said, Green’s 66.3 PFF grade this past season was his first time with a sub-80.0 mark since his rookie season in 2011 (72.0). The Cardinals needed to bring in another reliable threat at wide receiver to pair with DeAndre Hopkins, and Green figures to be their man for that job. Christian Kirk, KeeSean Johnson and Andy Isabella, all younger receivers, each have shown little to suggest they were capable of filling in as a quality WR2. To be fair, this version of Green probably doesn’t fit that bill, either. The hope for the Cardinals will be that Green has a more triumphant showing in his second year back and inches closer to the player who earned an 85.2 grade before going down with injury in 2018. There were just more exciting options for Arizona to spend $6 million dollars on to improve the wide receiver position."

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A different opinion

Not everyone seemed to dislike the signing, however, including Green's new Cardinals teammate, J.J. Watt.

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