The Cincinnati Bengals boast one of the younger rosters in the league, but just like any other NFL team, they have to contend with the possibility of losing their expensive stars.
After a disappointing playoff loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, the Bengals will look to the offseason to rebuild and potentially extend some big names.
With one eye on the Lamar Jackson fiasco in Baltimore, quarterback Joe Burrow is expected to negotiate a long-term extension in the coming months, and another high-profile player who could get his bag is one of Burrow’s favorite targets, Tee Higgins.
Amid rumors of Higgins’ tenuous future with the franchise, some key facts must be addressed. Higgins is not a pending free agent and is rather entering the final year of his rookie deal, worth $4 million. For all intents and purposes, Higgins will stay under contract with the Bengals until 2024.
If — and only if — Higgins and the Bengals don’t agree to an extension by next offseason, Cincinnati would then be open to trade talks and potentially deal him for a first-round pick, similar to the Tennessee Titans trading away A.J. Brown or the Minnesota Viking’ trading away Stefon Diggs. That much was indicated in The Athletic’s Paul Dehner’s piece (subscription required) on Higgins’ options moving forward.
Higgins himself responded to the recent trade speculation with a laughing emoji, seeming to imply all that talk was pure nonsense.
Stop overreacting: Cincinnati Bengals still have time to hash out an extension with WR Tee Higgins
The 23-year-old wideout put together his second consecutive 1,000-plus yard season in 2022 and has managed to avoid serious injuries, which should work well in his favor to secure a lucrative, long-term deal. When fellow teammate Ja’Marr Chase had to miss time, Higgins stepped up as the Bengals’ No. 1 receiver without batting an eye. When the two are on the field together, Higgins’ athletic contested catch abilities pair nicely with Chase’s quickness and explosion after the catch.
The Bengals’ passing offense wouldn’t be the same without either of them, and chances are the team will let Higgins play out his contract and either extend or even franchise tag him in 2024 (much like the Jessie Bates’ situation, but hopefully less tumultuous).
Every year, the pressure mounts on Cincinnati to extend its stars and keep its young nucleus intact. Burrow, Higgins, and Chase are three of the most prominent players currently playing on their rookie deals, and while the league-wide increased salary cap affords the team a little more leeway in squeezing in impending extensions, the front office still has plenty of numbers to crunch this offseason.