Higgins — a second-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft — was limited to just 12 games in the 2023 season due to rib and hamstring injuries. He finished the campaign with a career-low 42 catches for just 656 yards and five touchdowns.
Still, Higgins will likely be one of the biggest names in the receiver market this offseason, and it’s possible that he could get traded.
The Kansas City Chiefs have been noted as a likely destination for Tee Higgins, along with the Carolina Panthers.
It would be a major move, as the Chiefs need an elite target to pair with Rashee Rice and Travis Kelce on offense. The team dealt with a lot of drop issues between Skyy Moore, Kadarius Toney and Marquez Valdes-Scantling this past season — yet it still won the Super Bowl.
Imagine Patrick Mahomes with a weapon like the Cincinnati Bengals star WR on the outside? The rest of the league would be in trouble. Kansas City could free up some cap space by moving on from MVS, restructuring Mahomes’ deal or letting some players (like Chris Jones) walk in free agency.
There’s no doubt that the Panthers need to get quarterback Bryce Young some more help, and getting a true No. 1 in Higgins would certainly go a long way.
Carolina went into last season with an underwhelming receiving corps of Adam Thielen, DJ Chark Jr. and Jonathan Mingo. It’s no secret that Young struggled in part because of his lack of weapons.
Here are the four options the Bengals have when it comes to Higgins’ future.
1. Franchise tag at one year and $20.7 million
2. Franchise tag and then trade to a team willing to pay him long-term and give up compensation
3. Higgins signs a long-term extension before the franchise tag deadline
4. No tag, no extension, Higgins walks in free agency, Bengals potentially add 2025 compensatory pick
Cincinnati Bengals Expected To Franchise Tag Tee Higgins According To Report
Paul Dehner Jr. of The Athletic believes the Bengals are planning on using the franchise tag on Higgins for 2024.
The franchise tag is a one-year guaranteed contract offer sheet that Higgins can choose to sign for $20.7 million. He’s technically still free to negotiate with other teams at that point, but the Bengals would reserve the right to match any offer and receive two first-round picks as compensation if they didn’t.
Three dates matter most in the process. Feb. 20 marks the first day the Bengals can apply the tag and the deadline is March 5. One league source suggested the Bengals could place the tag early in the window as a statement acknowledging no long-term deal will be reached and opening the door for the rest of the league to consider or submit tag-and-trade offers. Far more likely, the two sides will convene up until the deadline with hopes of completing a long-term extension. If no extension is reached then, the next deadline is July 15. That’s the deadline to reach a long-term extension or else Higgins will have to play the 2024 season on the franchise tag contract.
The Cincinnati Bengals could tag Tee Higgins again in 2025 but would do so at 120 percent of the previous year, which would be $24.8 million.
Using the tag for Higgins to play in 2024 marks the most likely scenario and one accounted for in Burrow’s contract. When Burrow signed his $275 million deal, the extension didn’t kick in on the cap until the 2025 season. That leaves Burrow’s cap number this year at the $29.7 million fifth-year option of his rookie contract before ballooning to $46.3 million the next season. The difference can essentially be moved to Higgins’ bank account.