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Down-home Green settles in


It will be forever known as the A.J. Green Charter.

A.J. Green, Cincinnati's Pro Bowler next door, has settled into town for the next five years after signing what has been reported as a four-year extension worth $60 million with as much as $47 million of it payable in the next three years. He inked it less than two hours before the Bengals were  scheduled to jet to Oakland Friday for Sunday's opener (4:25 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 12) against the Raiders.

"They drafted me. It's all I know," Green said in a hastily-arranged news conference an hour before the bus left for the airport. "If you know me, you know I don't like change. I like to be comfortable."

Green, a Summerville, S.C., native, called his father and informed him of the deal while Woodrow Green mowed the grass. Green gave him a 12-foot fishing boat a few years ago, but he admitted there might be a new one on the way.

"Maybe a bigger one so we call all go out on it," Green said.

Which is why Cincinnati fits him.

"I think this city represents who I am. I love it here," Green said. "Very low key. It's not a big market. Doesn't want to be a big market. That's not who I am. I'm not a high-profile athlete. I just go out there and play my game and go home. That's representative of the Cincinnati Bengals. We fly under the radar."

But the humble Green let slip that he has Pro Football Hall of Fame aspirations  and his numbers certainly are legit. But he knows what he has to do to get there.

"Just looking down the road, I want to win a Super Bowl," Green said. "The guys who put on those jackets, those guys win a Super Bowl. At least one.  And they've been with a team their whole career. And that's what I'm trying to get. I'm so blessed and honored that the Bengals chose to keep me around for five years."

Once upon a time it was unthinkable for the Bengals to pay receivers beyond their 30th birthday. Ask Cris Collinsworth. But that stopped with Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh in the last decade. At age 31, Johnson helped the Bengals to an AFC North title in 2009 and played his final season here the next year. At age 31 in his final Bengals season, Houshmandzadeh led the team with 92 catches and 904 yards. Then in 2010 Terrell Owens led the team with 72 catches and 936 yards at age 36.

Green is on pace to finish the 2019 season his ninth with 740 catches, 11 behind Johnson, the franchise leader. But he would pass Johnson for most yards by 184, 10,967-10,783. The Ocho rung up those numbers in 10 seasons.

Although the deal is modeled on the similar extensions for Demaryius Thomas, Dez Bryant, and Julio Jones that were struck during this preseason, it's believed that Green's average per year is the highest of the four at $15 million in a four-year extension rather than five.

Much like they did in recent extensions for quarterback Andy Dalton, defensive linemen Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap, and linebacker Vontaze Burfict, the Bengals preferred to dole out  more up front than in the previous wide receiver deals so they could go without guarantees in the later years. It's believed Green is scheduled to get $32 million in the first six months and about $47 million over the next three years in what amounts to a virtual guarantee for a 27-year-old wide receiver who has been to four straight Pro Bowls to start his career.

The Bengals wanted to keep their extensions with the same structure, preferring not to go with guarantees in the later years that they fear would tie their hands for future deals.

Asked if he wanted more than the trio of Jones, Bryant, and Thomas, he laughed.

"I should get more if I was the last one,' he joked. "I just wanted to be fair. The Bengals did right by me. . . .I know the Bengals are happy about the deal. I think it's a win-win for both (sides)."

The deal comes on the heels of last year's $96 million extension  for Dalton, keeping intact a duo that has led the Bengals to four post-season berths.

Despite having injuries that prevented him from making catches in five games last year, Green is the only player to rank among the NFL's top four receivers in both receptions and yards for the first four seasons of a career.

The Bengals began re-building their post-Carson Palmer team when they took Green with the fourth pick in the 2011 draft. The only NFL quarterback Green has ever had arrived the next day in the second round when they took Dalton with the 35th pick.  Their 324 completions and 4,735 yards are the most by a quarterback-wide receiver combo during their first four seasons in the league.

The Bengals continued their philosophy Friday of keeping their young stars and core of a team that has become a perennial post-season entrant. They have 11 starters and regulars heading into the last years of their deals and still want to re-sign others before free agency hits in March. It's unclear if they'll keep doing it as the season progresses or if they'll do it nearer the end of the season, another hotbed of extensions.

It officially capped off an offseason in which the Bengals' front office checked off their major goals.

They wanted to retain their quality young players and did when they re-upped Green, left guard Clint Boling, and middle linebacker Rey Maualuga. They wanted to improve their pass rush and did when they re-signed right end Michael Johnson. And they added depth at linebacker with another free-agent signing, former Packer A.J. Hawk, as well as the drafting of TCU linebacker P.J. Dawson in the third round. After Friday's practice and before the deal was announced, head coach Marvin Lewis praised Green's focus through the preseason with a nod to a guy that just doesn't like a lot of drama.

"A.J. has handled it very well, obviously with all the speculation going on all the time," Lewis said. ""He's been A.J. through it all. He's been really good. It shows his maturity and inner strength common to A.J. Green."

The unflappable Green shrugged when approached by the media before Friday's practice in the wake of Thursday's barrage of speculation.

"Don't know," he said.

Lewis loves that about the guy. Other than his wife of nearly six months, Green doesn't have a lot of outside influences.

"The good thing about A.J. is A.J. and Miranda," Lewis said. "That's the best part. His circle is very tight and other than his teammates, that's what it is. That's the cool part about it."

Green wanted to let everyone know it's going to stay that way.

"The contract isn't going to change me," Green said. "I'm still the same old A.J."

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