The Patriots very well could bring in a bonafide pass-catcher this offseason, but it sounds like it probably won’t be A.J. Green.

Green has been tied to New England in rumors for some time now. Amid their dreadful 2019 season, many thought the Bengals might try to trade Green ahead of the deadline considering the seven-time Pro Bowl selection was in the final year of his contract. The Patriots reportedly were interested in trading for Green, but Cincinnati ultimately held on to him.

While Green now is in line to hit the open market, NFL writer Gregg Rosenthal doesn’t believe the 31-year-old actually will reach free agency. Rosenthal seems pretty confident the Bengals will slap the franchise tag on Green by the March 10 deadline.

“I think the Bengals are better than any team in the NFL at one thing, and that’s keeping their own players,” Rosenthal said on NFL Network’s “NFL Now.” “A.J. Green is one of their greatest players, obviously, of the last three decades. People on other teams and other cities excited to possibly get A.J. Green — I’m thinking Baltimore, I’m thinking Philadelphia, New England — every team in their little free agency preview is saying, ‘Ooh, if we can only get A.J. Green.’ Mike Brown, the Bengals owner, is not letting one of the greatest Bengals of all time walk out the door. A.J. Green already said it, that he would be happy to play on the franchise tag and I believe that the Bengals will keep him. It’s kind of perfect. After you miss a season to injury, A.J. Green has to build up his value again and I think he definitely gets the tag. So all that excitement about him possibly entering the market, I think there’s going to be a lot of disappointed teams.”

In addition to the reasons Rosenthal rattled off, the Bengals probably want to surround their soon-to-be new franchise quarterback with as much high-end talent as possible. It feels like a virtual certainty Cincinnati will select Joe Burrow with the No. 1 overall pick in late April, and the LSU product would have a decent supporting cast with Green and Tyler Boyd to go along with budding star running back Joe Mixon.

Luckily for the Patriots, who remain in desperate need of pass-catching help, they will have options outside of Green. The 2020 draft class is loaded with marquee receiving prospects, and veteran wideouts like Amari Cooper, Emmanuel Sanders and Robby Anderson also are expected to be available.

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