Bengals Intend To Keep Tee Higgins; Ja’Marr Chase Extension Talks Have Not Begun

It came as no surprise when the Bengals used the franchise tag on Tee Higgins, but he has since requested a trade. Questions about the standout receiver’s future have lingered in the absence of a long-term contract, but a deal sending him out of Cincinnati should still not be expected.

When speaking at the league meetings earlier this week, head coach Zac Taylor confirmed (via Kelsey Conway of the Cincinnati Enquirer) Higgins is firmly in the team’s plans for 2024. That falls in line with recent reporting on the matter, which indicated no trade talks have taken place to date. EVP Katie Blackburn has echoed Taylor’s sentiment.

“The plan is to certainly get through this year,” Blackburn said of Higgins (via Conway). “Our job is to get to these next phases, start looking at the whole overall roster and see how we can fit everything together. We’ll see how it all comes out.”

Higgins is due $21.82MM on the tag this season, a massive raise compared to his rookie contract earnings and likely a rough starting point on the value of a long-term agreement. The 25-year-old has topped 900 yards three times in his career, but a monster second contract would of course be more viable for Higgins on a team using him as its top wideout. That role belongs to Ja’Marr Chase in Cincinnati, and he is expected to be a higher financial priority moving forward.

Chase is eligible for an extension, having played three seasons in the league. The former No. 5 pick has lived up to expectations when healthy, racking up 3,717 yards and 29 touchdowns to date (despite missing five contests last year and one more in 2023). Chase is a candidate to land the most lucrative WR deal in the NFL, something which is also true of former LSU teammate Justin Jefferson.

Notably, Blackburn acknowledged (in a separate Conway piece) extension talks with Chase have not yet begun. “That’s sort of the next thing is just to piece together some of those things to consider and give it some thought,” she said. “I can’t say for sure where any of it will go. But we certainly are going to study up on it and see what we can figure out to try to get the best result we can for the club one way or another.”

With Joe Burrow on the books via the $55MM-per-year extension he signed last offseason, the challenge of retaining both Higgins and Chase long term will be a notable one. The latter can (and no doubt will) be retained through 2025 via the fifth-year option, buying the team as much as another offseason to work out a mega-deal. Chase’s market will be shaped by that of Jefferson, who was unable to finalize an agreement with the Vikings last offseason.

As a result, Tyreek Hill‘s $30MM AAV still leads the field at the receiver position. Jefferson and CeeDee Lamb are among the extension-eligible wideouts who could surpass that figure, along with Chase. The Bengals’ financial approach will remain one to watch closely with plenty still to be determined in the short- and long-term future.

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