A.J. Green: Cardinals are ready to win now; can't wait to play with Murray, Hopkins

Bob McManaman
Arizona Republic
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If Larry Fitzgerald returns for at least another season in Arizona, it would mean the Cardinals would have a trio of wide receivers with a staggering 23 Pro Bowl selections between them. Fitzgerald has been named to the Pro Bowl a franchise-record 11 times, DeAndre Hopkins has five Pro Bowl nods and the team’s newest addition, A.J. Green, has seven.

Fitzgerald’s future, however, remains a mystery and Green, one of his longtime friends, said Thursday he has no idea what’s in store for the future Hall of Famer.

What’s curious is that Green said he didn’t even talk to Fitzgerald before agreeing to a one-year, free-agent contract with the Cardinals worth up to $8.5 million, including $6 million guaranteed.

18. (14) Cincinnati Bengals: If you’re A.J. Green, you must be feeling a little like Larry Fitzgerald. You’re a superstar and you’re beginning to realize you wasted a good chunk of your prime playing for a franchise that can’t get to the Big Game.

“No. I knew Fitz for a long, long time and I knew what kind of guy he is and what he meant to this organization, so I never even asked him about this situation or told him anything about this,” Green said Thursday during a video conference call with Arizona reporters. “I just wanted to keep this business side out of it with Larry, but he loves this place.

“Larry is Arizona. I knew once I signed I would talk to him. He wants the best for me. He’s like a big brother to me. Whatever happens, I know I’m going to have Larry in my corner no matter what.”

Yeah, but will he have Fitzgerald as his wing man on the field along with Hopkins and Christian Kirk? Green said he would cherish the opportunity but didn’t want to speculate on Fitzgerald’s future.

“Man, it’s unbelievable what he’s done,” Green said. “I always was a big Larry fan from college. He came to my game when I was in college. I’ve known Larry for a long time and he’s been a mentor to me. … It would be an honor, but you know, he’s been playing this game for a long time so whatever he decides … I know I’ll be seeing him around here all the time.”

Green, 32, joins the Cardinals after spending 10 seasons with the Bengals, where he caught 649 passes for 9,430 yards and 65 touchdowns. Those numbers rank eight, fifth and sixth in the league, respectively, since his rookie season in 2011.

He said he had offers from a couple of other clubs, but chose the Cardinals because he sees them as a team on the rise capable of contending for a Super Bowl.

“I felt like Arizona gave me the best chance,” he said. “I’m excited about the whole direction that this team, this organization is going and for me, being in Cincinnati for 10 years is all I know. I was looking for an offense that really can fit my skill set and I feel with Kyler (Murray) and Hop and Kirk and the guys they have around this offense, I felt this was going to be the best fit for me.”

The 6-foot-4 Green is expected to start opposite of Hopkins as the No. 2 outside receiver in coach Kliff Kingsbury’s offense. Though he missed all of the 2019 season with an ankle issue and is coming off a down year in 2020, Green should be able to thrive with Hopkins constantly drawing double-team coverage.

“That’s going to take a lot off me because what he’s done in this league forever, the caliber of player he is,” Green said. “For me to be on the other side of that, I’m going to get a lot of one on ones and I’m very excited about that. Ten years of playing in an offense where you’re the focal point to take away every week, but coming to this offense where you have all these other guys and all these other playmakers on the field with you, it’s going to make my job a lot easier.”

Asked how much he feels he has left in him, Green said, “I feel like I have a lot left in the tank. I still feel young. The legs feel young.” Green was ready for a change and he’s hoping Arizona will be just as good for him as Tampa Bay was for Tom Brady last season.

“Coming to Arizona is refreshing,” he said. “I think you look around the league with Tom Brady and all these other guys who have been in the same places for years, and you saw what Tom Brady did last year. I think it’s good. Coming to Arizona with the weather, grass, indoors, I’m excited.

“I don’t feel like I have anything to prove. I’ve played this game at a high level for a long time. For me, I just want to go out there and play football and have fun again.”

Though the Cardinals haven’t been to the playoffs the past five years, Green views them as a legitimate playoff team that can truly contend for a title.

“It’s a big possibility,” he said. “I think in my search of my next team, it’s always about winning and playing for a winning team and playing in meaningful football games in January and February and I think that’s the main goal is winning a championship,” he said. “For me, to get out and go somewhere to where the organization is ready to win now is unbelievable.”

Green, who hasn’t been to the playoffs since his first two seasons in Cincinnati, knows it all starts with the quarterback and he is a big believer in Murray, who was named to the Pro Bowl this past season after winning Offensive Rookie of the Year honors in 2019.

“I’m more excited how he can create,” Green said. “I think this league is going to the quarterbacks who can really create, and I feel like he plays at a very high level. He can sit back there, he can move around and make plays with his legs and get the ball out. You see how he throws that thing, it just soars out of his hand. It’s like so pretty.”

Green said he spoke to his former coach Marvin Lewis about Murray and Lewis, now a special adviser at Arizona State, raved about the young quarterback.

“He told me one thing about Kyler,” Green said. “He said, ‘He can sling it, A.J. You’re going to be very happy.”

Drake signs with Raiders

Jan 3, 2021; Inglewood, California, USA; Arizona Cardinals running back Kenyan Drake (41) reacts in the third quarter against the Los Angeles Rams at SoFi Stadium. The Rams defeated the Cardinals 18-7. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Running back Kenyan Drake, who spent the past year and a half with the Cardinals following his trade from the Dolphins for a sixth-round pick, has agreed to a two-year deal with the Raiders worth a reported $14.5 million.

Drake rushed for 955 yards and 10 touchdowns last season on 239 carries.

Kingsbury has said backup Chase Edmonds can handle a full-time starting role, but the team is expected to add another running back either through free agency or the draft. The Cardinals hold the No.16 overall selection in the first round.

Sherfield to 49ers

Wide receiver Trent Sherfield, who spent the past three seasons with the Cardinals but was not tendered as a restricted free agent, agreed to a one-year deal with the 49ers on Thursday, according to NFL Media’s Mike Garafolo.

Sherfield spent most of the past two seasons as a cornerstone on special teams, but caught 28 passes for 340 yards and a touchdown during his time in Arizona.

Have an opinion on the Arizona Cardinals? Reach McManaman at bob.mcmanaman@arizonarepublic.com and follow him on Twitter @azbobbymac. Listen to him live on Fox Sports 910-AM every Tuesday afternoon at 3:30 on Calling All Sports with Roc and Manuch. 

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