The Arizona Cardinals are collecting some big names this offseason and added another one to their coffer on Wednesday, agreeing to a one-year deal worth up to $8.5 million with former Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green. Green is hoping the dry desert air and a new offensive system help him rejuvenate his career at age 32.
In his return from missing essentially a season and a half with various injuries—he played just 17 snaps from the conclusion of Week 8 in 2018 to the start of the 2020 season—Green showed significant signs of decline. While he played in all 16 games last season, he was hardly fantasy relevant, finishing as the WR67 in total points and a lowly WR86 in average fantasy points per game (7.4). He was ranked around the likes of Tyron Johnson, Willie Snead, and Scotty Miller in per-game production. His catch rate was an abysmal 45.2% (47 receptions on 104 targets) and he set career lows nearly across the board—and there weren’t even dramatic Joe Burrow/no Joe Burrow splits to blame.
Green was a fantasy star for the first seven seasons of his career, but what does he have left to offer?
The Cardinals needed to upgrade their WR2 opposite DeAndre Hopkins, so going out and getting Green at a relative value makes sense. However, quarterback Kyler Murray—in many of the same ways Deshaun Watson did early in his career—locked in on Hopkins early and often in 2020. Hopkins had a 28.7% target share of Murray’s passes in the duo’s first season together. No other player on Arizona’s roster had a share even half as large, with Christian Kirk coming in at 14.2% in 14 games.
However, if Larry Fitzgerald retires or does not return to the team, his 72 targets must go elsewhere. Let’s say those transfer over to Kirk who should be playing in the slot anyway and Kirk’s 5.64 targets per game (mostly on the outside) go over to Green. Let’s also say that Green boosts his catch rate to his previous career low of 52.4%. If all that happens, we’re looking at a stat line of around 47 receptions for 650 yards and 3-4 touchdowns. Last season, that would’ve ranked right as the WR49 in total points (between Darius Slayton and Laviska Shenault) and WR75 in points per game (between Kendrick Bourne and Adam Humphries). In deeper leagues, that’s worthy of a bench spot, but in the vast majority of 12-team leagues, that makes Green more of a streaming or bye-week option.
If you want to take a flier on Green as the last receiver on your bench in your fantasy draft, that’s fine. However, I do not believe the upside of 2011-2017 A.J. Green is still present. I consider him a WR6 for fantasy purposes in 2021.