Bengals Rumors

No Talks Yet Between Bengals, Tee Higgins

The Jaguars’ Josh Allen extension thinned the NFL’s 2024 pool of tagged players to two (down from nine in early March), the situations involving the remaining two will be magnified. The Buccaneers are optimistic about an extension for Antoine Winfield Jr., while it is unclear if the Bengals intend to extend Tee Higgins.

Higgins sent out a trade request just before free agency, but the Bengals have not budged. Cincinnati decision-makers indicated at the owners meetings they intend for the team’s No. 2 wide receiver to be part of the 2024 roster. Higgins may well be staring at a rental season, with Joe Burrow‘s contract not yet into its deep waters in terms of cap numbers.

Making it clear Ja’Marr Chase is their top priority at receiver, Higgins may eventually need to land a second contract from another team. Unless the Bengals change their mind on a trade, the former second-round pick is stuck. As of Thursday, no talks between the Bengals and Higgins have taken place, ESPN.com’s Matt Miller notes. If the Bengals are not merely planning on a rental season, they still have plenty of time here. They and the Bucs have until July 15 to extend their tagged performers.

It would be surprising if the Bengals buckled here. They executed a rental season with Jessie Bates two years ago, tagging the standout safety and letting him walk in free agency in 2023. The 2022 season featured Bates play a key role for a Bengals team that was probably a historically ill-timed late hit away from overtime in the AFC championship game. The old-school organization planning to have Higgins in 2024 points to the Clemson alum potentially staring at this situation again in 2025.

With Burrow on his way back from the wrist surgery that ended his 2023 season and crushed the Bengals’ contention aspirations, the team running back the Chase-Higgins tandem back for a fourth season in hopes of dethroning the Chiefs would make sense. Even with Higgins’ $21.82MM tag on the books, the Bengals still hold more than $23MM in cap space.

The Bengals receiving a big trade package for Higgins could conceivably change its plans, but with an acquiring team needing to hammer out an extension, that would stand to reduce the compensation Cincy would receive in a trade. Higgins, 25, resides in a similar situation to Brandon Aiyuk. Because Aiyuk was a first-round pick, however, he is a year behind Higgins on what could be a multiyear cycle (fifth-year option, franchise tag) with the 49ers.

It would cost the Bengals more than $26MM to tag Higgins again in 2025. Burrow’s cap number, however, spikes from $29.7MM this year to $46.3MM in 2025. The Bengals already have three void years in Burrow’s deal to spread out his signing bonus. Chase will be due a $21.82MM fifth-year option in 2025, though an extension could reduce that number and potentially make a second Higgins tag affordable.

Higgins has two 1,000-yard seasons under his belt, but he slumped to just 656 — after being unimpressed with a Bengals extension offer — in an injury-altered 2023. The 6-foot-4 pass catcher would stand to be in position to move back on track thanks to Burrow’s return, and it is also possible the Bengals pass on a 2025 re-tag move and let the standout sidekick hit the market. Then again, we certainly could be back here again next year, when tag-and-trade rumors could pick up more steam as the Bengals’ other contracts on offense force a final decision on Higgins.

Traded NFL Draft Picks For 2024

As the 2024 draft nears, numerous picks have already changed hands. A handful of picks have already been moved twice, with a few being traded three times. Multiple deals from 2021 impact this draft. Here are the 2024 picks to have been traded thus far:

Round 1

Round 2

Round 3

Round 4

Round 5

Round 6

Round 7

Bengals Host Washington OT Troy Fautanu, Oregon State OT Taliese Fuaga

The Bengals got a long look at a pair of top offensive line prospects this week. According to Bleacher Report’s Jordan Schultz, the Bengals hosted Washington offensive tackle Troy Fautanu on a top-30 visit on Tuesday. The Bengals also have a top-3o visit scheduled with Oregon State offensive tackle Taliese Fuaga, per Bleacher Report’s Ryan Fowler.

After redshirting as a freshman and playing sparingly during the 2020 and 2021 campaigns, Fautanu emerged as a full-time starter in Washington between 2022 and 2023. This culminated in a 2023 campaign where he earned first-team All-Pac-12 honors. That performance also propelled him up the draft boards, as Fautanu is expected to hear his name called at some point during the first round.

Fuaga is one of the offensive tackles competing with Fautanu to be selected in the first round. The Oregon State product was also a first-team All-Pac-12 honoree this past season. Scouts have lauded the prospect’s offensive line IQ, and there’s some belief he could play both tackle and guard in the NFL.

The Bengals brought in Trent Brown to play opposite Orlando Brown Jr., so the team doesn’t desperately need an OT. However, as Paul Dehner Jr. of The Athletic noted yesterday, the Bengals still need a swing tackle, and they’d love for a rookie to provide Brown with some competition at right tackle.

If the Bengals do opt for a first-round offensive tackle, Dehner can’t envision the coaching staff playing around with the rookie’s position. Alex Cappa is firmly entrenched in one guard spot, and the Bengals “really like the progress” of Cordell Volson, per Dehner.

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.

AFC Contract Details: Titans, Jeudy, Browns, Brown, Bengals, Broncos, Bills, Jets, Texans

Here are contract details from some of the latest deals agreed to around the league.

  • Calvin Ridley, WR (Titans). Four years, $92MM. In addition to his $20MM signing bonus, Ridley will see his first two base salaries ($4.5MM, $22,5MM) fully guaranteed. If on Tennessee’s roster by Day 5 of the 2025 league year, Ridley will receive a $3.02MM guarantee for his 2026 base salary ($20.24MM), per OverTheCap. If Ridley remains on Tennessee’s roster by Day 5 of the 2026 league year, he will earn a $1MM bonus. This still stands to give the Titans some 2026 flexibility.
  • Jerry Jeudy, WR (Browns). Three years, $52.5MM. The recently traded wideout’s base value, as expected, checks in lower than the initial numbers. The ex-Denver target will see guarantees into his the deal’s third year, with SI.com’s Albert Breer noting $6MM will be guaranteed for 2026. Jeudy received $41MM guaranteed at signing.
  • Curtis Samuel, WR (Bills). Three years, $24MM. The Bills are guaranteeing $5MM of Samuel’s $6.91MM 2025 base salary at signing. The entire ’25 base is guaranteed for injury, KPRC2’s Aaron Wilson tweets. Samuel will be due a $1MM roster bonus on Day 5 of the 2026 league year; his $6.51MM 2026 salary is nonguaranteed.
  • John Simpson, G (Jets). Two years, $12MM. This number is down a bit from the initial $18MM figure, which is the deal’s max value. Simpson will see $6MM guaranteed, ESPN.com’s Rich Cimini notes. The Jets used three void years to spread out the cap hits; the fifth-year guard is on New York’s books at $3.2MM in 2024.
  • Folorunso Fatukasi, DT (Texans). One year, $5.2MM. The recent Jacksonville cut will receive $4.6MM guaranteed at signing on his Houston pact, Wilson tweets. The Texans tacked two void years onto the veteran nose tackle’s deal.
  • Trent Brown, T (Bengals). One year, $4.75MM. The veteran tackle will receive $2MM guaranteed, with OverTheCap indicating $1MM will be available in per-game roster bonuses with another $250K in play via a workout bonus. A bonus-laden structure is not new for Brown, who had weight clauses in his most recent two Patriots contracts.
  • Solomon Thomas, DL (Jets). One year, $3MM. The Jets are guaranteeing the former No. 3 overall pick $2.5MM, Cimini adds.
  • Mike Edwards, S (Bills). One year, $2.8MM. The former Tampa Bay and Kansas City safety can earn up to $4MM on his Buffalo deal, ProFootballNetwork.com’s Adam Caplan tweets. He is on the Bills’ cap at $2.8MM.
  • Cody Barton, LB (Broncos). One year, $2.46MM. The Broncos will land the veteran linebacker for more than $1MM cheaper than the Commanders did in 2023. Denver is guaranteeing $2.33MM of the deal, per the Denver Gazette’s Chris Tomasson.
  • Desmond King, CB (Texans). One year, $1.8MM. Veteran slot cornerback/return man’s contract can max out at $2.2MM, Wilson tweets.

Chargers, CB Kristian Fulton Agree To Deal

The Chargers hosted Kristian Fulton on a free agent visit earlier this week, and that meeting has produced an agreement. The former Titans cornerback is headed to Los Angeles on a one-year deal, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reports.

Fulton played out his four-year rookie contract with Tennessee, but 2023 did no go according to plan. The former second-rounder missed time due to a benching as well as a stint on injured reserve, limiting him to 12 contests. He started 11 of those, however, reprising the first-team role he held for much of his time in Nashville. Fulton could provide the Chargers with a low-cost starter in the secondary as a result of this deal.

ESPN’s Turron Davenport reports Fulton declined offers from the Bengals, Broncos and Cardinals before agreeing to this one-year Chargers pact. That could point to a notable financial component of the deal, but in any case it demonstrates the market he commanded despite an up-and-down tenure in Tennessee. The 25-year-old posted four interceptions and 25 pass breakups in 42 Titans games, but he struggled in coverage (114.1 passer rating allowed) last season in particular.

The Chargers moved on from J.C. Jackson midway through the 2023 campaign, while veteran Michael Davis signed with the Commanders in free agency. Those departures left Los Angeles in need of a new first-team option to work alongside Asante Samuel Jr. and Ja’Sir Taylor. Fulton – who saw notable time in the slot as a rookie but has primarily been used on the perimeter since then – will look to lock down a starting spot this offseason.

The LSU alum could help his market value considerably with a healthy and productive stint in Los Angeles. Given his age, a multi-year pact could come his way if 2024 were to include an end to the injury issues which have marred his career so far (Fulton has yet to play more than 13 contests in a campaign). As the Chargers continue to re-tool on both sides of the ball with a new coaching staff and front office in place, the team has taken a flier on an upside addition during the second wave of free agency.

Bengals To Sign T Trent Brown

In need at right tackle following Jonah Williams‘ Cardinals signing, the Bengals are bringing in a longtime starter who has extensive experience on both sides of the line.

Trent Brown will leave New England for Cincinnati, per NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport, who notes the recent Patriots left tackle starter is joining the Bengals on a one-year deal. The nine-year veteran is in Cincinnati on a visit Tuesday.

This could be a high-upside move for the Bengals. Though, the one-year deal is logical due to the high-variance nature of the 6-foot-8 blocker’s career. Brown, 31 next month, has played well when available. But the veteran tackle has run into various health issues throughout his career. This includes a run of absences last season.

Brown’s age-30 season included a No. 11 grade among tackles from Pro Football Focus and the second-best mark at the position in one-on-one situations, per Next Gen Stats. Brown also found himself in one-on-one assignments 88.3% of the time, which checked in as the most at the position. He also missed six games and only started eight in 2023, which continued a pattern of unavailability during the talented tackle’s career.

The Patriots reacquired Brown from the Raiders in 2021, after his then-record right tackle deal did not pan out. Although Brown made the Pro Bowl in 2019, he missed five games. A COVID-19 contraction then introduced complications in 2020, leading to just five Brown starts. The Pats, who had turned to Brown as their starting left tackle during their 2018 Super Bowl-winning season, moved him to the right side in 2021. The team, however, slid Brown back to LT upon re-signing him in 2022. Over his career, the 49ers draftee has worked as a right tackle starter in five seasons and a left-side starter in three.

The Bengals will ask the 370-pound O-lineman to give it a go on the right side once again, per SI.com’s Albert Breer, as Orlando Brown Jr. is entrenched on Joe Burrow‘s blindside. The team moved Williams to RT during the 2023 offseason, as a trade request followed. Williams played out his contract year but left to join the Cards on a two-year, $30MM agreement. In Brown, the Bengals are acquiring a higher-ceiling blocker but one whose career has brought speedbumps.

In addition to the Patriots included weight clauses in Brown’s past two contracts, they were believed to be frustrated with Brown’s inability to stay on the field. Brown missed eight games in 2021 but did suit up for all 17 games in ’22. Ankle and knee injuries hampered the Pats’ starting left tackle last year, and internal frustration with the big-bodied blocker developed within the building. The Patriots removed Brown from their injury report late last season but made him a healthy scratch. Brown did not start after Week 13 of last season and was inactive over the Pats’ final two games.

This signing could still precede the Bengals drafting a longer-term solution soon, but Brown appears positioned as the favorite to start on the right side. The Bengals still roster D’Ante Smith and Jackson Carman, but Brown (93 starts) a two-Brown O-line — so long as the larger of the two Browns is healthy — is probably the plan as of now. Should Trent Brown stay healthy, this would be one of the largest tackle tandems in NFL history, with Orlando Brown Jr. going 6-8, 345.

Jets Continuing To Explore Trade Market For WRs; Latest On Tee Higgins

Even as they have set about overhauling their offensive line, the Jets have been linked to a number of wide receivers in the free agent and trade markets. For instance, New York was reportedly interested in trading for Keenan Allen before the Chargers shipped him to the Bears, and the club inquired on Jerry Jeudy as well. Likewise, Gang Green is believed to have interest in FA Tyler Boyd and will soon visit with the recently-released Mike Williams.

As of the time of this writing, GM Joe Douglas has been unable to add to Aaron Rodgers‘ contingent of pass catchers. Unsurprisingly, however, Douglas is still exploring the trade market, as ESPN’s Rich Cimini writes.

It is unclear if Douglas will have much success in that regard. While Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins has requested a trade, Cincinnati has stated that it intends to keep the franchise-tagged talent, and per Albert Breer of SI.com, that is not just GM-speak. The club truly does want to run back the Ja’Marr Chase/Higgins tandem for at least one more season, and Jonathan Jones of CBS Sports says no trade conversations between the Bengals and the Panthers, another team in search of WR help, have taken place. Per Jones, Carolina and Cincinnati are unlikely to line up on a Higgins trade, even though the Panthers now have pick nos. 33 and 39 to offer.

On the other hand, Breer thinks that the Bengals may get an offer that is too good to turn down as the draft approaches, just as the Titans did when they dealt A.J. Brown on draft night several years ago (although that ill-fated decision on Tennessee’s part may prove to be a cautionary tale for Cincinnati). Whether such an offer is made, and whether that offer comes from Douglas — who is under pressure to win now — remains to be seen.

Instead of a trade for a player like Higgins or the 49ers’ Brandon Aiyuk — who may or may not be in line for a second contract with San Francisco — Cimini believes it is more logical to add a mid-tier FA like Boyd while taking advantage of a deep pool of collegiate wideouts. Although the Jets are without a second-round choice in 2024 and will therefore not make their second selection until they are on the clock with the No. 72 overall pick, the depth of this year’s WR class means that they can still get an impact player with that pick.

In addition to Williams and Boyd, Cimini says Odell Beckham Jr. could be a Douglas target in free agency. The Ravens aggressively outbid other suitors, including the Jets, for Beckham’s services last year, but even though Beckham turned in a mostly healthy season and was a key complementary piece in Baltimore’s passing game in 2023, the club is unlikely to re-sign him. Beckham will likely not come close to the $15MM guarantee he secured from the Ravens, and Douglas could view him as a worthy ancillary weapon who could be had for a relatively low cost.

Minor NFL Transactions: 3/15/24

Friday’s minor transactions:

Arizona Cardinals

Chicago Bears

  • Released: OL Roy Mbaeteka

Cincinnati Bengals

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

Houston Texans

Los Angeles Rams

Miami Dolphins

Minnesota Vikings

New Orleans Saints

New York Giants

Irwin gets a crack at a WR3 role in Cincinnati as Tyler Boyd heads to free agency. Irwin also holds experience as the team’s backup return man, filling in last year when Charlie Jones was injured.

Heck rejoins the Texans on a one-year deal worth up to $3.3MM. He’ll add some key depth at an important position.

Rozeboom was a restricted free agent who wasn’t tendered. Regardless, the two sides work out a fully guaranteed deal for 2024.

Feeney joins the Vikings on a one-year deal. Though far removed from a consistent starting role with the Chargers, Feeney has continued to find starts throughout his career as a valuable body off the bench.

The Giants bring in two tight ends without much receiving experience. Manhertz, a veteran whose played for the Panthers from 2016-20, has extensive starting experience as a blocking tight end with 53 starts in his career.

Bengals To Re-Sign TE Tanner Hudson

Coming into free agency in need of a new tight end depth chart, the Bengals may be close to finished restocking the position. The team’s 2024 tight end group will look similar to its 2023 contingent.

After re-signing Drew Sample, the Bengals have an agreement in place to bring back Tanner Hudson, ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler tweets. Hudson agreed to a one-year contract Friday. Hudson, who initially landed with the Bengals in 2023, is coming off his best receiving season.

Outside addition Mike Gesicki will join Hudson and Sample. While a rookie could be added to supplement this trio, the Bengals appear to have their top three tight ends under contract. Gesicki will offer the highest receiving ceiling among this trio, with Sample the top blocking presence. But Hudson accounted himself fairly well succeeding Hayden Hurst as the Bengals’ top pass catcher last season. Despite Hurst and C.J. Uzomah being available once again, the Bengals are largely sticking with their 2023 tight end plan.

A UDFA out of Southern Arkansas, Hudson emerged as an unlikely player to lead Bengals tight ends in receiving yards. The team signed Hudson to its practice squad in December 2022, but after a reserve/futures deal commitment, he did not make the 2023 Bengals’ roster. The team promoted the 29-year-old pass catcher from the practice squad last year, and he led the team’s TEs in yardage — despite Cincinnati rostering Irv Smith Jr. — by nearly 200. Hudson had never previously cleared 150 receiving yards in a season.

The Bengals have opted not to allocate notable funds at tight end for a bit, bringing in Hurst and Smith on low-cost one-year contracts. Sample signed a three-year, $10.5MM deal earlier this week. With Joe Burrow the NFL’s highest-paid player and Tee Higgins on a franchise tag, it makes sense the Bengals are keeping costs low in other areas. The team also move Joe Mixon‘s reworked contract off the books this week, trading him to the Texans after signing Zack Moss on a cheaper accord.