CINCINNATI (AP) — Receiver A.J. Green agreed to a contract extension on Friday that runs through the 2019 season, the last big thing the Cincinnati Bengals needed to accomplish before their season opener.
Green was under contract through this season. The Bengals got the new deal signed before they got on a plane for Oakland and their opener on Sunday.
“I can go out there and play freely and I don’t have to worry about anything,” Green said. “Words can’t describe how I feel right now, I’m so happy.”
Green was the Bengals’ first-round pick in 2011 — quarterback Andy Dalton was chosen in the second round — and has reached the Pro Bowl each of his four seasons. Dalton and Green have led the Bengals to the playoffs each season, only to lose the opening game each time.
A concussion prevented Green from playing in a 26-10 loss at Indianapolis in the opening round last season that extended the fifth-longest streak of playoff futility in NFL history. Cincinnati hasn’t won a playoff game since the 1990 season.
Green is the fourth receiver to get a significant extension in the offseason. He got a deal comparable to the five-year, $71 million contract that Atlanta gave Julio Jones in late August. Green said Jones’ agreement jump-started his contract talks with the Bengals.
“Once Julio’s deal was done, we felt better about the situation we were in,” Green said. “But it was still taking time to iron out little things. Once Julio’s deal was done, stuff started to heat up.
“The numbers were pretty set, what I should get. Once everybody else’s was done, then I had no doubt it was going to get done.”
Green and Dalton have combined on 324 completions for 4,735 yards, the most for any NFL duo in the first four seasons of their careers. Their 33 touchdowns are tied for the most, along with Miami’s Dan Marino and Mark Clayton. Green wanted to stay in Cincinnati — he said he doesn’t care much for change and was comfortable playing in the same offense.
“Coming in with Andy, having a guy to grow with over time, is definitely beneficial,” Green said. “He knows me, I know him. We’ve been together since Day 1. We’re a leader of this offense and they go as we go. If we have a good game, then we’re hard to stop. That’s the biggest thing, but we’ve got a lot of room to get better.”
Green had 69 catches for 1,041 yards and six touchdowns last season, when he missed three games and parts of two others with a toe injury. He also suffered a concussion in the regular-season finale.
“I think I’m still elite,” Green said. “I topped 1,000 yards missing six games. The whole offseason, all I focused on was getting better and trying to stay healthy. There’s definitely a chip on my shoulder to get back to the 2014 A.J. with no injuries.”
The Bengals are trying to use their running game and become more balanced on offense this season. When Green was hurt last season, the passing game struggled to make game-changing plays.
“A.J. makes all of us better,” Dalton said. “As a quarterback, you can put up a contested ball for him that you might not put up for everybody. We’re focused right now on 2015, but this is great to know for the long run.”