With the Cincinnati Bengals off to a dismal 0-5 start, and any hopes of a playoff berth so dim the light might as well have been chucked into a black hole, rumors will swirl about potential trade targets as the team brass begins focusing on getting better for the future.
The main piece sure to garner attention ahead of the Oct. 29 trade deadline is receiver A.J. Green. The star wideout has yet to play a game this season, nursing an ankle injury that has kept him out since July. He is in the final year of his contract. And he could fetch a decent return for Cincy.
Trading Green, a star when healthy, could bring back value for a team playing for the future, but current players are hopeful the Bengals won't trade their best player.
"I already know what you are talking about, you are talking about A.J." corner Dre Kirkpatrick responded when queried about potential trades, via Paul Dehner Jr of The Athletic. "Bro, that better not happen. Period. It better not happen."
"I feel like it's going to fall apart," he said. "You can't do it. You can't do it, man. That's our best player on the team. He's not even out there. So, we don't even know what we got, how the team really looks. They can't do that. They can't ... I'm a team player first, I rally around my guys and that would really hurt my spirit if we see him walk out the door."
The question of trading Green is one the Bengals' brass will have to juggle delicately over the next several weeks. It comes with multiple layers. Will Green even be healthy enough to contribute soon? Would owner Mike Brown change years of holding onto long-time Bengals and trade his former No. 4 overall pick? What sort of compensation could Cincinnati get in return to entice it to part with Green? Would the operation fall apart, as Kirkpatrick suggests, if the team trades away a leader -- how much worse can it get?
We must also factor in how Green feels about his future. The Bengals star recently praised Larry Fitzgerald's career with the Arizona Cardinals, marveling at how Fitzy stuck with one franchise through all the rises and falls.
Will Green's career mirror Fitzgerald, a player on a persistently poor team, whose name is bandied about in trade rumors seemingly each year to no avail? Or will the Bengals trade their best player to the top bidder and gamble for the future?
We'll find out before Halloween.