While opportunities were limited for the Kansas City Chiefs receiving corps to showcase their star power during Sunday’s Super Bowl LV loss, the unit’s 5,005 combined yards ranked first in the NFL in 2020 by a sizeable margin. However, the talented group will be in danger of losing two of its key contributors this offseason with Sammy Watkins and Demarcus Robinson both slated to become unrestricted free agents in March.
Of the two, Watkins is the most likely player to price himself out of spending range for the Chiefs, who will need to eliminate between $17-22 million from their current salary cap total in order to get under budget in the new league year.
In order to alleviate the potential lost production, ESPN’s Bill Barnwell believes Kansas City could turn its attention to another former No. 4 overall pick and a soon-to-be free agent.
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A.J. Green to Kansas City in 2021?
In a recent exercise in which Barnwell predicted where some of the NFL’s top receivers may land in 2021, he pegged the Chiefs as his most likely landing spot for longtime Cincinnati Bengals star A.J. Green.
Here was Barnwell’s thought process:
We’re now three-plus years removed from Green’s last healthy season as a starter (2017), and he hasn’t been that game-changing threat since 2018. He’ll have to take a massive pay cut from his $18 million franchise-tag figure, and having made more than $108 million as a pro, he might just move on.
I think Green can still play, and I wonder whether there’s a surprising fit. The Chiefs are going to move on from Sammy Watkins after his contract expires, and Mecole Hardman isn’t a like-for-like replacement. Green could be a relatively low-cost replacement for Watkins and chase a ring before he retires.
Although Green’s best days are likely behind him now, he remains one of the big-name veteran wideouts in the year’s “uniquely stacked” free agent class featuring the likes of Allen Robinson, Kenny Golladay, Chris Godwin and others. The Chiefs have already been the beneficiaries of veteran — running back Le’Veon Bell in the case of this past season — opting to sign with a serious championship contender rather than chase money.
Fortunately for Kansas City, Green, who will turn 33 years old on July 31, is not expected to cash in on his third career contract. Instead, Barnwell predicts a one-year “prove it” deal in the range of $4 million. That would be less than half of Watkins’ $9 million salary in 2020 and one-fourth of his contract’s total $16 million value if he hadn’t missed out on his statistical incentives due to lingering hamstring and calf injuries.
In a separate ESPN exercise on Wednesday, Barnwell’s colleague Jeremy Fowler selected one of Green’s current AFC North rivals, the Baltimore Ravens, as the “best fit” for his services.
It’s also worth noting that Barnwell has the New England Patriots as the suitor for Watkins on a projected budget-friendly deal worth $4.25 million.
Where Would Green Fit In?
The seven-time Pro Bowler’s production took a substantial step backward in his first year back after missing the entire 2019 campaign due to torn ankle ligaments suffered in training camp. Despite playing in all 16 games for just the fifth time in his nine-year NFL career, Green hit career lows in receiving yards (523) and touchdowns (two) on 47 receptions from No. 1 overall quarterback Joe Burrow.
Green’s 14 starts last season were misleading as the veteran was often phased out behind Tyler Boyd and rookie standout Tee Higgins, who led the 4-11-1 club in receiving. After Burrow was lost for the season in Week 11 to a torn ACL and MCL, the usually reliable veteran posted just 12 catches for 166 yards and a single score in his team’s final six contests.
Green has struggled with staying on the field throughout much of his decorated career, though that could prove to work in favor of a cash-strapped team such as the Chiefs. With his 6-foot-4, 210-pound frame, Green would also provide Patrick Mahomes with a sizeable outside-the-numbers target not seen to this point in his young career, at least not on a consistent basis.
Of the wideouts who have seen regular playing time over the past two seasons, Watkins and Robinson — both listed at 6-foot-1 — are the Chiefs’ tallest threats outside of 6-foot-5 tight end Travis Kelce.
It’s a scenario worth pondering, but expect the Super Bowl runner-ups to have some competition for the dwindling Bengals star, if interested.
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Chris Licata is an NFL contributor covering the Kansas City Chiefs from enemy territory in Denver, Colorado. Follow him on Twitter @Chris__Licata or join the Heavy on Chiefs Facebook community for the latest out of Chiefs Kingdom!