Cincinnati Bengals v Pittsburgh Steelers
PITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 28: A.J. Green #18 of the Cincinnati Bengals is hit and injured on the play by Mike Mitchell #23 of the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field on December 28, 2014 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
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Bengals must be extra careful with A.J. Green

The Cincinnati Bengals survived a major scare on Saturday afternoon.

Practicing in Dayton, Ohio as part of the NFL’s 100th anniversary celebration, patrons watching their favorite team saw A.J. Green running for a deep ball along the sideline. Then he went down, clutching his lower leg. Green eventually hobbled off before being carted away, with the potential of taking Cincinnati’s entire season with him.

Luckily, reports have Green as likely sustaining a sprained ankle and not a devastating injury. However, when Green does return to the lineup — and if the Bengals are smart, he doesn’t see a single preseason snap — the team is ultra cautious with him.

Cincinnati is trying to rebuild its program after failing to win a playoff game during the 16 seasons Marvin Lewis was employed as head coach. In fact, the Bengals. have the longest current draught of any team, not having won a postseason game since the 1990 season. With new head coach. Zac Taylor in the building, it stands to reason there will be a seismic shift in both philosophy and personnel.

In that line of thinking, how long will Green be around? He’s currently on his second contract and quite likely the most lucrative one of his career. At 30 years old (he turns 31 on July 31), the former Georgia Bulldog has one year remaining on his deal before hitting unrestricted free agency for the first time. Perhaps he wants to stay in Cincinnati for the duration of his career. Perhaps he wants to chance that ever-elusive championship ring.

Regardless, the Bengals have to be thinking about the long game. If they truly do plan on a significant rebuild — as all signs would point to — Green’s largest value is in his trade value. In two of the last three seasons, Green has failed to play more than 10 games. Still, he’s recorded at least 1,000 yards in six of his eight campaigns despite playing with Andy Dalton during all of them.

Come the October trade deadline, Green’s play could be the main talking point. If Cincinnati can help keep him healthy to that juncture, there’s no doubt calls will be rolling in to inquire about his services. Then, the Bengals can discuss whether they want to trade one of the most productive players in franchise history, and what kind of haul they would accept.

For now, though, Green simply needs to recover, and the Bengals have to play it smart in the coming weeks and months.

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