Bengals, Tee Higgins Have Not Discussed Extension Since Early 2023

Although the “deadlines spur action” disclaimer applies, no signs point to the Bengals reaching an extension with Tee Higgins by the July deadline. Higgins stands alone among this year’s tagged contingent, as the seven franchise players and transition-tagged Kyle Dugger have since been locked up long term.

With Ja’Marr Chase the priority for the Bengals at wide receiver, Higgins resides in limbo. The former second-round pick has been there a while. The Bengals did not approach $20MM per year when they last negotiated with Higgins’ camp. Those talks transpired more than a year ago, with’s Ben Baby indicating the parties have not resumed negotiations since they broke off.

Going more than a year without talking terms covers most of Higgins’ time as an extension-eligible player. The Clemson alum became eligible for a long-term deal in January 2023. As it stands, the Bengals may be in the early stages of a rental arrangement.

Higgins requested a trade in March but said later he expects to play this season with the Bengals. Not exactly a team known for coming off its position — as the Jonah Williams and Trey Hendrickson situations recently remind — the Bengals could be interested in a multiyear rental setup.

The Bengals have Higgins tied to a $21.8MM franchise tag. Higgins, 25, has not signed his franchise tender and joins Chase in staying away from Bengals workouts. It should not be expected Chase’s sidekick resurfaces anytime soon. Jessie Bates‘ 2022 run on the franchise tag involved the standout safety staying away well into training camp; Higgins and Bates share an agent. The fifth-year receiver cannot be fined for a failure to report due as long as he refrains from signing his tender.

Should Higgins and the Bengals not come to terms by July 15, the sides cannot resume negotiations until season’s end. The Bengals would have the option of re-tagging Higgins, at 120% of his 2024 salary, in 2025. That would make for an interesting plan, as receiver salaries skyrocket — to the point Chase should be in commanding position when this year’s round of deals wrap. This would certainly not go over well with Higgins, who would be denied multiple key windows to capitalize on his earning potential. That said, the Bengals could retain their WR2 for $26.2MM in 2025.

That would be a lofty cap number, especially as Joe Burrow‘s cap hit spikes from $29.6MM to $46.2MM, but the Bengals are projected to hold — several months out, at least — more than $45MM in cap space next year. Going by the pace of these negotiations and the statuses of Burrow and Chase, the prospect of Higgins being cuffed once again should not be discounted.

With Amon-Ra St. Brown, A.J. Brown and Jaylen Waddle signing extensions, Higgins’ price stands to rise. Even if Higgins could be on track for a second-tier WR contract, this year’s early deals will help his cause — whenever he enjoys the chance to negotiate. The Bengals not going near $20MM per year in 2023 would suggest the sides would not be close now, especially after Higgins’ underwhelming 2023 (656 receiving yards, five touchdowns).

The Bengals’ history with the franchise tag furthers evidence Higgins is highly unlikely to be extended this year. Prior to Higgins, Cincinnati has tagged 10 players since the tag’s debut in 1993 — Bates, A.J. Green, defensive end Michael Johnson, kickers Mike Nugent and Shayne Graham, tackle Stacy Andrews, defensive lineman Justin Smith, running back Rudi Johnson, wideout Carl Pickens, D-tackle Dan Wilkinson); only two (Johnson, Pickens) signed an extension with before that year’s deadline. The Johnson deal transpired back in 2005. (Nugent also circled back to an extension the following year.) While Higgins is obviously a central piece in the Bengals’ Super Bowl quest, his 12-plus-month negotiating wait continues.

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