A.J. Green missed three games last season and didn't catch a pass in two others due to a variety of injuries, and was out of action for the first time since his rookie year, when he missed one game.
The Bengals' wide receiver, unsigned for 2016, battled a series of aches and pains, including turf toe, and upper-arm and concussion issues. But Green proved once again that, when healthy, he's one of the best in the NFL.
The four-time Pro-Bowler last season put together a solid stat line of 69 receptions for 1,041 yards, a 15.1-yards-per-catch average, and six touchdowns. However, they were career lows, except for the average, which was the second-best mark of his young career.
Green surpassed 1,000 yards for the fourth time in his four years in the league, the first Bengal to accomplishment that, and led the NFL in yards per route run, according to Pro Football Focus. The rest of the top five: Demaryius Thomas, Odell Beckham, Julio Jones and Jordy Nelson.
The 6-foot-4, 207-pound receiver our of Georgia had five 100-yard games, including a career-high 224 Dec. 7 vs. Pittsburgh. That stands as the second-highest single-game total in Bengals history. He snared a career-high 12 catches Nov. 23 at Houston. He averaged 110 yards per game in the last six games of the season in which he caught a pass.
Healthy and entering a contract year, Green is set up for a possible career-best season, if he can stay on the field. Where's the bar now? His single-season reception high is 98. Best yardage total: 1,426. He has caught 11 touchdowns in a season twice. His career-best yards-per-catch average is 16.3.
They all could be going down under the impending deluge.
With quarterback Andy Dalton's confidence sky-high in Green, and with so many question marks among the rest of the Bengals' receivers, it's more than likely that Green will post high-volume numbers. It's not out of the question that he could haul in a career-high number of catches while also posting his best average.
If he does, say, to the tune of 105 catches with an average of 16.5 yards per, we're talking about a 1,700-yard season. That would be a franchise record, and you could probably throw in another double-digit touchdown year, for good measure.
That's the ceiling, but Green also has a high floor, even though the Bengals are expected to continue focusing on the running game. He's a virtual lock for his fifth 1,000-yard season. He has averaged 1,218 receiving yards per year in his career. Bet on at least 1,200 in 2015, but expect a few hundred more, with an average in the neighborhood of 15 yards per catch.
A big season means big money, now that we know what the Broncos' Thomas will be making: $70 million for five years, after turning down a $100-million offer. He's guaranteed $35 million the first two years.
Green, who turns 27 later this month, is entering the final season of his five-year rookie contract. The Bengals will likely use the franchise tag in 2016 while they negotiate a long-term deal.
Green is not a threat to hold out this year. He has previously stated that he's fine with playing out the final season of his rookie deal absent a long-term extension. He's owed $10.176 million this year, with a possible monster season coming up.