Bengals WR Tee Higgins Requests Trade

To no surprise, the Bengals used the franchise tag on wideout Tee Higgins and in doing so prevented him from reaching free agency. He could still be playing on a new team by the start of the 2024 season, though. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports Higgins has requested a trade.

This is complicated territory for the Bengals, who may well be renting Higgins via the tag. Cincinnati’s Joe Burrow extension and its plans for a Ja’Marr Chase payday — its top WR priority — may make a Higgins extension untenable. But the team carved out enough cap space for a Higgins tag this year. The team’s No. 2 wideout may not be on board with the team’s plan, one that would delay his long-term payday by a year.

The Bengals saw their hopes at breaking through for a Super Bowl title dashed when Burrow went down in November. A Higgins tag would offer a mulligan of sorts, keeping the Burrow-Chase-Higgins window open for one more year. Player personnel director Duke Tobin, who shot down Higgins trade rumors at the 2023 Combine, recently said a tag-and-trade scenario was unlikely.

The message is we really like Tee and we’re a better team with Tee. In terms of our intentions and answering hypotheticals, I won’t get into that,” Tobin said, via the Cincinnati Enquirer’s Charlie Goldsmith. “We feel like we’re a better team with him. The reason we franchised him is we’d like to have him.”

Tag rentals have been going on since the NFL introduced the player-retention tool in 1993, and standout wide receivers regularly need to wait until Year 5 for a payday. CeeDee Lamb and Justin Jefferson are in this boat, due to being first-round picks in 2020, and Chase will probably join them. The Bengals picking up Chase’s fifth-year option can allow them to table extension talks to 2025.

Cincinnati dealing Higgins would hurt its chances of winning a championship this year, though the receiver market not including Mike Evans (re-signed) or Michael Pittman Jr. (tagged) could make offers for the Clemson alum tempting. Higgins would certainly fetch a strong haul for the Bengals, and Cincy tagging Higgins so early could have been interpreted as a way for the team to see what a trade would bring back. But this is an old-school organization that typically does not give in on these fronts. It will be interesting to see if any traction develops here.

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