Bengals Did Not Approach $20MM AAV During Previous Tee Higgins Talks

No news about Tee Higgins-Bengals extension talks has surfaced this year, leading to a trade request — as seven of the other nine 2024 tag recipients agreed to deals. But the Bengals did discuss terms with Higgins last year; those talks did not go well.

With Ja’Marr Chase on track for an expected record-setting receiver extension, it is not certain if the Bengals have a Higgins extension — at least, not one at the rate the Cincinnati WR2 would seek — in their plans. Just before last season, a report surfaced the Bengals and Higgins were not close on terms. This prompted the two-time 1,000-yard pass catcher to play out his rookie contract without further extension talks transpiring.

[RELATED: Bengals Exercise Ja’Marr Chase’s Fifth-Year Option]

No reports of another round of Bengals-Higgins talks have surfaced, and the Cincinnati Enquirer’s Kelsey Conway provides more details on the latest round of discussions. The Bengals did not come close to the $20MM-per-year number for Higgins when the sides last talked, and Conway adds the gap that formed — in terms of AAV — cut off extension talks fairly early. The sides did not discuss guarantees.

Guarantees were rumored to be an issue between the parties last summer, but it is unclear if guaranteed money — beyond the $21.82MM franchise tag the Bengals applied in February — has entered the equation yet. In terms of comps, Conway adds Higgins was seeking a deal in line with the numbers Michael Pittman Jr. agreed to (three years, $70MM). This would have placed Higgins in the range Terry McLaurin, Deebo Samuel and D.K. Metcalf established in 2022.

Higgins’ receiving numbers are comparable to these players, and had he hit the open market like Calvin Ridley did, a deal north of where the Titans went (four years, $96MM) would have been likely. Not counting Higgins’ tag, 17 wideouts are now attached to deals worth $20MM or more per year.

Eyeing another run at a Super Bowl, the Bengals predictably used the tag on Higgins, who joins Buccaneers safety Antoine Winfield Jr. as the only tag recipients this year unsigned. While Tampa Bay has extension plans for its All-Pro DB, Cincy might be content letting Higgins play a season on the tag. The team has no plans to trade Higgins, who expects to be with the Bengals in 2024.

Keeping Higgins on a rental agreement would stand to align with the Bengals’ Chase and Joe Burrow contracts. Chase remains on his rookie contract, and only one wide receiver — DeVonta Smith — has signed an extension with two years of rookie-deal control remaining in the fifth-year option era. The Bengals waited until Year 5 to extend A.J. Green in 2015, pointing to a 2025 Chase agreement. Burrow’s five-year, $275MM extension also will spike from $29.7MM to $46.3MM from 2024-25. These two situations open a window for the Bengals to retain Higgins on the tag, though the long-term outlooks for Burrow and Chase complicate matters regarding an extension for the 2020 second-round pick.

It will be interesting if the Bengals make another offer. They did make Jessie Bates an offer before the 2022 tag deadline, but the proposal was believed to be low on guarantees, calling into question how interested Cincinnati was in a long-term Bates deal. Unless an extension is reached or Higgins is re-tagged in 2025, will be in position, the 6-foot-4 target will be positioned as one of the top players on next year’s market.

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