Bengals Exercise Ja’Marr Chase’s Fifth-Year Option

A day after the Broncos officially extended Patrick Surtain‘s contract through 2025, the Bengals are making a similarly easy decision. They picked up Ja’Marr Chase‘s fifth-year option.

Chase became an instant-impact player for the Bengals, representing a central piece in the team’s rise during Joe Burrow‘s early years. This transaction gives the Bengals two more years of control with Chase, who will be tied to a $21.82MM guarantee in 2025.

[RELATED: Tee Higgins Expects To Play For Bengals In 2024]

The former No. 5 overall pick’s 2025 guarantee checks in on the top option tier, joining Surtain and Micah Parsons (whenever the Cowboys officially exercise his option) as 2021 draftees eligible for the highest option price at their respective positions. Chase being a three-time Pro Bowler made him eligible for that WR option number, which matches Tee Higgins‘ current franchise tag price.

Chase, 24, is 3-for-3 in 1,000-yard seasons, getting there in 2022 despite missing five games. Burrow lobbied for his former LSU teammate ahead of the 2021 draft, when a Chase-or-Penei Sewell debate played out. The latter has become a standout for the Lions, even beating Chase to first-team All-Pro acclaim. But Chase follows a long line of standout Bengals wideouts, potentially presenting a higher ceiling than all of them. This option decision will almost definitely precede an eventual extension — likely a record-setting agreement.

The Bengals tagged Higgins in March, but as seven of the nine teams to roll out tags have already agreed to extensions, Cincy has not. No rumors of a Higgins extension have emerged. That is likely because the Bengals have a Chase deal budgeted. In the fifth-year option era, teams have traditionally made first-round wide receivers wait until Year 5 before extensions surface. The Eagles did break that trend for DeVonta Smith, becoming the first team in the option era (2014-present) to extend a first-round WR with two years of rookie-contract control remaining. It would be interesting to see the Bengals go here for Chase, but Higgins’ situation may interfere with that concept.

Picking up Chase’s option would allow the Bengals to squeeze in one more year of he and Higgins. Chase is tied to only a $1.1MM base salary ($9.8MM cap number) in 2024. The fourth-year WR’s cap hit matches up well with Higgins’ $21.82MM tag tender, and Burrow’s cap numbers do not skyrocket until 2025. The Pro Bowl quarterback is tied to a $29.7MM cap hit in 2024; that spikes beyond $46MM next year.

After Burrow’s season-ending injury eventually sank the Bengals last year, this profiles as a pivotal campaign for a team that strung together AFC championship game appearances (and a Super Bowl LVI berth) in the QB’s previous two healthy seasons. Chase played a vital part in that success, and the Bengals are preparing to see if perhaps the final Chase-Higgins season will lead to an elusive championship.

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