While the Cincinnati Bengals are preparing for the start of NFL free agency, several players with one year left on their deals are candidates to be signed to long-term extensions.
Tight end Jermaine Gresham, quarterback Andy Dalton, linebacker Vontaze Burfict and receiver A.J. Green all can sign new deals in the final years of their rookie contracts.
The belief coming into the offseason was Green was the likeliest to sign a long-term deal, but according to ESPN Insider Mike Sando, there might not be an extension for Green for two more years:
I’m expecting Green to play out the final season of his rookie contract before the Bengals use the franchise tag to buy additional time. Cincinnati has used the tag eight times since 1993, tied for fourth most in the NFL behind Indianapolis, Seattle and Arizona.
The Bengals used it for defensive end Michael Johnson this past season, and now they appear likely to let him test the market. Green is more valuable than Johnson, but he’ll rightfully have high expectations for a long-term deal — expectations I’m not sure Cincinnati will meet a year ahead of free agency.
Note also that Cincinnati plans to emphasize the running game in 2014.
It is worth pointing out the Bengals could exercise a fifth-year club option in 2015, but that too would cost the same as the franchise tag.
By letting Green play out this year and then slapping the franchise tag or club option on him, it’s possible the team doesn’t sign him to a long-term deal until the 2016 offseason.
It’s not unheard of for the Bengals to use the franchise tag on someone they desire to keep, but more often than not, the players they’ve tagged have left the following year.