Bengals Rumors

Bengals, Tee Higgins Will Not Reach Extension Agreement

Every player but one who received a franchise or transition tag this offseason wound up agreeing to a multi-year deal. The lone exception was Bengals wideout Tee Higgins, who signed his one-year tender last month.

That decision left team and player available to negotiate a long-term deal, but at the time it remained a longshot such an agreement would be reached. The deadline for tagged players to sign a new contract is July 15, but no last-minute development is expected in Higgins’ case. The 25-year-old will play on the tag in 2024 without a deal in hand, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reports.

Having already signed the tag, Higgins will be required to attend training camp – unlike players who have previously declined to sign the tender even past the deadline for long-term deals to be finalized. The former second-rounder’s Bengals future has long been in question with Ja’Marr Chase in need of a monster extension as early as this offseason. Keeping he and Higgins in the fold while quarterback Joe Burrow plays out his market-topping extension would be a steep salary cap challenge. Cincinnati’s last Higgins extension efforts came more than one year ago, and offers did not reach the $20MM AAV mark.

For that reason, many expect the Clemson alum to use the 2024 season as a springboard to a free agent departure next spring. Higgins requested a trade in March, but it soon became clear the Bengals would not explore moving him. Based on his comments earlier in the spring, it comes as no surprise team and player now find themselves in a situation which will likely amount to a one-year rental. Cincinnati will, of course, have the option of applying a second franchise tag in 2025.

Higgins will receive $21.82MM this year, and a second tag would cost just over $26MM in 2025. The receiver market experienced another surge this offseason with three players topping the $30MM-per-year mark. A Chase extension will be in that neighborhood, taking away flexibility for a Higgins deal. The latter produced at least 908 yards in each of his first three seasons in the NFL, proving to an effective complement to Chase. Higgins produced career lows across the board in an injury-shortened 2023 campaign, but a bounce-back this year would set him up well on the open market.

The Bengals will have a new third receiver in 2024 given the absence of Tyler Boyd. Regardless of who ends up filling that role, Higgins could see a slight uptick in usage as he attempts to showcase himself to outside suitors. Cincinnati’s offense is on track to have a healthy Burrow, something which will raise expectations for the unit. Higgins’ presence will help the team’s passing game, but signs continue to point to this campaign being his last with the Bengals.

Latest On Bengals’ WR3 Competition

With Tyler Boyd now in Tennessee, the WR3 role in the Bengals’ offense is up for grabs. Whoever lands the gig will likely see plenty of targets in Cincinnati’s Joe Burrow-led aerial attack, and they will also be well-positioned for an even bigger workload in 2025 if Tee Higgins — who is poised to play out the upcoming season on the franchise tag — should depart in free agency.

As Jay Morrison of Pro Football Network writes, “there is an assumption” that rookie Jermaine Burton will serve as Burrow’s top target behind Ja’Marr Chase and Higgins on the club’s WR depth chart. There is plenty of justification for that assumption, as Burton spent four years establishing himself as a dangerous weapon in college football’s best conference. Across two seasons at Georgia and two more at Alabama, Burton caught 132 passes for 2,376 yards (an excellent 18.0 YPR rate) and 23 TDs. That type of explosiveness could make life quite difficult for opposing defensive coordinators, who will already have their hands full in accounting for Chase and Higgins.

Morrison is quick to point out, however, that second-year player Andrei Iosivas is very much in the mix. The Bengals viewed the Princeton product as something of a project when they selected him in the sixth round of last year’s draft, but he adapted to the pro game more quickly than expected and played well in relief of an injured Higgins in 2023. Morrison notes that Iosivas has earned Burrow’s trust, and he worked with a receiver coach this offseason to further refine his route running and technique. He secured 15 catches for 116 yards and four TDs in his rookie season.

Of course, even the wideouts that find themselves lower on Cincinnati’s pecking order will still have an opportunity to carve out a meaningful role. Charlie Jones was taken two rounds before Iosivas in the 2023 draft, and he made a notable special teams impact as a rookie, returning 23 punts for 248 yards, including an 81-yard return for a score. Longtime Bengal Trenton Irwin saw significant snap shares over each of the past two seasons, notching 55 catches for 547 yards and five TDs in that span.

Irwin was re-signed to a modest one-year accord this offseason.

Bengals OL Jackson Carman On Roster Bubble

Throughout his career, Jackson Carman has taken part in offseason position battles. The fourth-year Bengals offensive lineman has not succeeded in that regard, and entering training camp he should not be considered a roster lock.

Carman will need a strong performance this summer to avoid being cut, Jay Morrison of Pro Football Network writes. That comes as little surprise, considering how the 24-year-old’s Cincinnati tenure has gone to date. Carman lost out training camp battles for a starting guard role in each of his first two seasons in the league. He did step in as a temporary Jonah Williams left tackle replacement in 2022, but that was not followed up by a notable role the following season.

Carman was surpassed as Williams’ top competition for the starting right tackle gig last summer. The former second-rounder played just 12 offensive snaps in 2023, failing to secure the swing tackle role or a rotational spot along the interior. The team’s 2024 starting lineup along the O-line appears to be set (Orlando Brown Jr., Cordell Volson, Ted Karras, Alex Cappa and either Trent Brown or Amarius Mims). Carman will compete for a backup interior role, Morrison notes.

The latter has one year remaining on his rookie contract, and he is set to carry a cap hit of $2.37MM in 2024. Cincinnati would save $1.68MM in cap space by cutting him, although doing so could of course result in Carman being brought back via the practice squad if he were to clear waivers. His performance over the coming weeks will be worth watching closely.

Elsewhere on the roster, Morrison notes punter Brad Robbins is in danger of losing his spot atop the depth chart. The 2023 sixth-rounder took on the role as Kevin Huber‘s successor last season, but he underwhelmed in gross (44.3) and net (40.6) average punts. Cincinnati signed Austin McNamara as a UDFA, and he finished 10th in NCAA history in average punt yardage (45.9). Robbins will therefore face a strong challenger as he and Carman look to retain their respective roster spots.

Largest 2024 Cap Hits: Offense

The NFL’s salary cap ceiling was expected to see a large increase this offseason, but estimates proved to be on the low side. A record-setting jump resulted in a cap of $255.4MM for teams to work with.

That has resulted in new waves of spending at a few positions, with quarterbacks and receivers seeing continued growth at the top of the market. Last offseason offered a strong chance of the league seeing at least one $40MM-plus cap charge, but the Browns avoided such a scenario with a Deshaun Watson restructure. Owing to that move – and the lack of further adjustments this spring – however, Watson’s financial impact is set to grow considerably this season.

Here are the league’s top cap charges on offense leading up to training camp:

  1. Deshaun WatsonQB (Browns): $63.77MM
  2. Dak PrescottQB (Cowboys): $55.13MM
  3. Matthew StaffordQB (Rams): $49.5MM
  4. Kyler MurrayQB (Cardinals): $49.12MM
  5. Daniel JonesQB (Giants): $47.86MM
  6. Patrick MahomesQB (Chiefs): 37.01MM
  7. Lamar JacksonQB (Ravens): $32.4MM
  8. Trent WilliamsLT (49ers): $31.57MM
  9. Tyreek HillWR (Dolphins): $31.32MM
  10. Josh AllenQB (Bills): $30.36MM
  11. Cooper Kupp, WR (Rams): $29.78MM
  12. Taylor MotonRT (Panthers): $29.75MM
  13. Joe BurrowQB (Bengals): $29.55MM
  14. Deebo SamuelWR (49ers): $28.63MM
  15. Chris GodwinWR (Buccaneers): $27.53MM
  16. Jared GoffQB (Lions): $27.21MM
  17. Joe ThuneyLG (Chiefs): $26.97MM
  18. Geno SmithQB (Seahawks): $26.4MM
  19. Laremy TunsilLT (Texans): $25.86MM
  20. Davante AdamsWR (Raiders): $25.35MM
  21. Quenton NelsonLG (Colts): $25.2MM
  22. Kirk CousinsQB (Falcons): $25MM
  23. Jawaan TaylorRT (Chiefs): $24.73MM
  24. D.K. Metcalf, WR (Seahawks): $24.5MM
  25. Christian KirkWR (Jaguars): $24.24MM

Watson’s figure will shatter the NFL record for the largest single-season cap charge if no adjustments are made in the coming weeks. The hits for Prescott, Murray, Stafford and Jones also would have set a new benchmark if not for the Browns passer, a sign of the QB market’s continued upward trajectory. Cleveland is set to remain in a similar situation for the next three years as Watson plays out his fully guaranteed $230MM deal.

Prescott’s future is one of several important questions the Cowboys need to answer relatively soon. With CeeDee Lamb and Micah Parsons due for second contracts, an extension for the three-time Pro Bowler will need to take into account future commitments. While Prescott has considerable leverage (via no-tag and no-trade clauses), he joins Jones in facing an uncertain post-2024 future in the NFC East.

The latter saw the Giants make an effort to trade up for a quarterback in April and he reacted in an understandable manner. Jones’ $40MM-per-year 2023 extension remains the dominant storyline surrounding the team, and a decision on retaining him or moving on will need to be made prior to a potential out early next offseason. Murray’s performance this fall will likewise be worth watching; he has received consistent praise from head coach Jonathan Gannon, but he will aim to put together a fully healthy season following 2023’s truncated campaign.

Stafford and the Rams have a mutual desire to continue their relationship, but he is seeking guarantees beyond the 2024 campaign. The 36-year-old’s representatives have been in discussion on a resolution during the offseason, although even in the absence of one a training camp holdout is not expected. The likes of Mahomes, Jackson and Allen retain a place in the top 25, and the same will no doubt be true of Burrow for years to come.

Of the receivers listed, only Hill is known to be actively pursuing a new deal. The 30-year-old once led the receiver market with a $30MM AAV, a figure inflated by non-guaranteed money at the end of the pact. With the bar having been raised to new heights this offseason, Hill could join teammate Jaylen Waddle in securing a new payday. Since the team has a Tua Tagovailoa extension on the horizon, however, Miami could hesitate on the Hill front.

It come as little surprise that Williams tops the list for offensive linemen. The 11-time Pro Bowler has been mentioned in retirement rumors before, but playing to age 40 is now a goal. Meeting it could require future contract adjustments. Samuel’s future in the Bay Area was a talking point this offseason as the team attempts to keep Brandon Aiyuk in the fold. One of the high-profile wideouts may be playing for a new team for the first time in their career in 2025.

Elsewhere along the O-line, Moton and Taylor demonstrate the value seen at the right tackle spot in recent years. Given the developments of the guard market this offseason, though, the likes of Thuney and Nelson will have competition for spots on the list in future years. Similarly, the non-Hill wideouts could easily be surpassed in the future with a further additions set to be made (particularly by Lamb, Aiyuk and Ja’Marr Chase) at the top of the ever-increasing market.

Goff joined the $50MM-per-year club on his third NFL deal, whereas Cousins continued to add to his impressive NFL earnings by joining the Falcons. If healthy, the latter could prove to be an effective pickup for a team aiming to return to the postseason (while quieting questions about a transition to Michael Penix Jr. under center). Smith also has plenty riding on this season with a new Seahawks coaching staff in place which incrementally arrived at the decision he will serve as the starter in 2024.

2024 Offseason In Review Series

As training camps near, the NFL offseason is winding down. Many unresolved matters remain — much of them pertaining to quarterbacks and wide receivers — but teams’ rosters are mostly set. Leading up to Week 1, PFR will continue to add to its annual Offseason In Review series. Here is where our latest offseason examinations stand so far:

AFC East

  • Buffalo Bills
  • Miami Dolphins
  • New England Patriots
  • New York Jets

AFC North

  • Baltimore Ravens
  • Cincinnati Bengals
  • Cleveland Browns
  • Pittsburgh Steelers

AFC South

  • Houston Texans
  • Indianapolis Colts
  • Jacksonville Jaguars
  • Tennessee Titans

AFC West

NFC East

NFC North

NFC South

  • Atlanta Falcons
  • Carolina Panthers
  • New Orleans Saints
  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFC West

The NFL’s Longest-Tenured GMs

The NFL’s general manager ranks featured some key shakeups this offseason. One of the longest-tenured pure GMs in the game, Tom Telesco, lost his Chargers seat 11 years in. The Raiders, however, gave Telesco a second chance. He now controls the Las Vegas roster. Only Telesco and the Jaguars’ Trent Baalke reside as second-chance GMs currently.

Two long-serving personnel bosses also exited this offseason. The Patriots’ decision to move on from 24-year HC Bill Belichick gave Jerod Mayo a head coaching opportunity but also resulted in Eliot Wolf belatedly rising to the top of the team’s front office hierarchy. A former Packers and Browns exec, Wolf held decision-making power through the draft and kept it on an official basis soon after. While John Schneider arrived in Seattle with Pete Carroll in 2010, the latter held final say. Following Carroll’s ouster after 14 seasons, Schneider has full control.

[RELATED: The NFL’s Longest-Tenured Head Coaches]

The Commanders changed GMs this offseason, hiring ex-San Francisco staffer Adam Peters, but Martin Mayhew received merely a demotion. The three-year Washington GM, who worked alongside Peters with the 49ers, is now in place as a senior personnel exec advising Peters. Rather than look outside the organization, Panthers owner David Tepper replaced Scott Fitterer with Dan Morgan, who had previously worked as the team’s assistant GM.

Going into his 23rd season running the Saints, Mickey Loomis remains the NFL’s longest-serving pure GM. This will mark the veteran exec’s third season without Sean Payton. An eight-year gap now exists between Loomis and the NFL’s second-longest-tenured pure GM.

As the offseason winds down, here is how the league’s 32 GM jobs look:

  1. Jerry Jones (Dallas Cowboys): April 18, 1989[1]
  2. Mike Brown (Cincinnati Bengals): August 5, 1991[2]
  3. Mickey Loomis (New Orleans Saints): May 14, 2002
  4. John Schneider (Seattle Seahawks): January 19, 2010; signed extension in 2021
  5. Howie Roseman (Philadelphia Eagles): January 29, 2010[3]; signed extension in 2022
  6. Les Snead (Los Angeles Rams): February 10, 2012; signed extension in 2022
  7. Jason Licht (Tampa Bay Buccaneers): January 21, 2014; signed extension in 2021
  8. Chris Grier (Miami Dolphins): January 4, 2016[4]
  9. John Lynch (San Francisco 49ers): January 29, 2017; signed extension in 2023
  10. Chris Ballard (Indianapolis Colts): January 30, 2017; signed extension in 2021
  11. Brandon Beane (Buffalo Bills): May 9, 2017; signed extension in 2023
  12. Brett Veach (Kansas City Chiefs): July 11, 2017; signed extension in 2024
  13. Brian Gutekunst (Green Bay Packers): January 7, 2018; agreed to extension in 2022
  14. Eric DeCosta (Baltimore Ravens): January 7, 2019
  15. Joe Douglas (New York Jets): June 7, 2019
  16. Andrew Berry (Cleveland Browns): January 27, 2020: signed extension in 2024
  17. Nick Caserio (Houston Texans): January 5, 2021
  18. George Paton (Denver Broncos): January 13, 2021
  19. Brad Holmes (Detroit Lions): January 14, 2021: agreed to extension in 2024
  20. Terry Fontenot (Atlanta Falcons): January 19, 2021
  21. Trent Baalke (Jacksonville Jaguars): January 21, 2021
  22. Joe Schoen (New York Giants): January 21, 2022
  23. Ryan Poles (Chicago Bears): January 25, 2022
  24. Kwesi Adofo-Mensah (Minnesota Vikings): January 26, 2022
  25. Omar Khan (Pittsburgh Steelers): May 24, 2022
  26. Monti Ossenfort (Arizona Cardinals): January 16, 2023
  27. Ran Carthon (Tennessee Titans): January 17, 2023
  28. Adam Peters (Washington Commanders): January 12, 2024
  29. Dan Morgan (Carolina Panthers): January 22, 2024
  30. Tom Telesco (Las Vegas Raiders): January 23, 2024
  31. Joe Hortiz (Los Angeles Chargers): January 29, 2024
  32. Eliot Wolf (New England Patriots): May 11, 2024

Footnotes:

  1. Jones has been the Cowboys’ de facto general manager since former GM Tex Schramm resigned in April 1989.
  2. Brown has been the Bengals’ de facto GM since taking over as the team’s owner in August 1991.
  3. The Eagles bumped Roseman from the top decision-making post in 2015, giving Chip Kelly personnel power. Roseman was reinstated upon Kelly’s December 2015 firing.
  4. Although Grier was hired in 2016, he became the Dolphins’ top football exec on Dec. 31, 2018

Bengals QB Joe Burrow Addresses 2024 Health Outlook

Joe Burrow threw without restrictions during spring practices for the Bengals, and he is expected to be full healthy by the start of the regular season. A key storyline for 2024 will be his ability to remain available for entire campaign, though.

The former No. 1 pick entered last season with concerns stemming from the calf strain he suffered in the summer. A dislocated wrist ultimately shut him down for the year, adding further to his missed time in the NFL. Burrow has suffered two ACL tears in his career, and twice in his four Cincinnati campaigns he has been limited to 10 contests. Rather than focusing on a quick recovery process this offseason, attention shifted to a longer rehab aimed at putting him in a better position throughout the coming year.

“Number one, I want to be on the field for all the games,” Burrow said during an interview with Complex Sports“I know I’m going to play well when I’m out there. I’m at that point in my career where I’ve seen enough ball and I know myself that I can go out there and play as well as anybody in the game.

“The biggest strides this year are going to be my body and learning how to get through the season, get through practices with my body feeling tip-top shape. And so that’s the main focus for the offseason.”

If healthy, the 27-year-old figures to give the Bengals a strong chance of contending in a highly competitive AFC. The team did manage a 9-8 record despite needing to lean on Jake Browning to close out the season in 2023, but its offense – featuring a number of new faces – will of course have a higher ceiling with Burrow back in place. Cincinnati’s receiving corps no longer includes Tyler Boyd, leaving the tandem of Ja’Marr Chase and franchise tag recipient Tee Higgins in place atop the depth chart; that pair has proven to be a strong pass-catching asset for Burrow.

Of course, expectations will remain high for the latter as he is tied with Trevor Lawrence for having the league’s highest AAV ($55MM) on his contract. Burrow is on the books through 2029, and his availability will be a central aspect of the Bengals’ success for the foreseeable future. It will be interesting to see if he makes progress this offseason with respect to improving his pain management and overall ability to stay on the field considering the importance of doing so for team and player in this case.

The NFL’s Longest-Tenured Head Coaches

Following 2023’s five-team coaching carousel, this offseason featured a quarter of the jobs becoming available. One HC-needy team (New England) did not put its position on the market, promoting Jerod Mayo, but the rest did. The Patriots’ decision also produced the first shakeup among the league’s longest-tenured head coach list since 2013.

Since the Eagles fired Andy Reid, Bill Belichick‘s Patriots HC stint had run the longest. After a 4-13 season, the six-time Super Bowl-winning leader was moved out of the picture. No team hired Belichick, generating a wave of rumors, and only one (Atlanta) brought him in for an official interview. While Belichick should be expected to take at least one more run at a third-chance HC gig, Mike Tomlin rises into the top spot on this list.

Tomlin is going into his 18th season with the Steelers, and while he has surpassed Bill Cowher for longevity, the steady leader still has a ways to go to reach Chuck Noll‘s 23-season Pittsburgh benchmark. Tomlin, 52, enters the 2024 season 17-for-17 in non-losing seasons, separating himself from his predecessors in that regard.

Belichick’s ouster brought far more attention, but his Patriots predecessor also slid out of the HC ranks after a 14-year Seattle stay. Pete Carroll‘s third HC shot elevated the Seahawks to their franchise peak. No Hawks HC comes close to Carroll’s duration, and while the Super Bowl winner was interested in remaining a head coach, no team interviewed the 72-year-old sideline staple.

Belichick and Carroll’s exits leave only Tomlin, John Harbaugh and Reid as coaches who have been in place at least 10 years. With Mike Vrabel also booted this offseason, only eight HCs have held their current jobs since the 2010s. A few 2017 hires, however, stand out; Kyle Shanahan, Sean McVay and Sean McDermott have now each signed multiple extensions. Now riding back-to-back Super Bowl wins, Reid joined Tomlin in signing an offseason extension.

Here is how the 32 HC jobs look for the 2024 season:

  1. Mike Tomlin (Pittsburgh Steelers): January 27, 2007; extended through 2027
  2. John Harbaugh (Baltimore Ravens): January 19, 2008; extended through 2025
  3. Andy Reid (Kansas City Chiefs): January 4, 2013; extended through 2029
  4. Sean McDermott (Buffalo Bills): January 11, 2017; extended through 2027
  5. Sean McVay (Los Angeles Rams): January 12, 2017; extended through 2027
  6. Kyle Shanahan (San Francisco 49ers): February 6, 2017; extended through 2027
  7. Matt LaFleur (Green Bay Packers): January 8, 2019: signed extension in July 2022
  8. Zac Taylor (Cincinnati Bengals): February 4, 2019; extended through 2026
  9. Mike McCarthy (Dallas Cowboys): January 7, 2020
  10. Kevin Stefanski (Cleveland Browns): January 13, 2020; signed offseason extension
  11. Robert Saleh (New York Jets): January 15, 2021
  12. Dan Campbell (Detroit Lions): January 20, 2021; extended through 2027
  13. Nick Sirianni (Philadelphia Eagles): January 21, 2021
  14. Matt Eberflus (Chicago Bears): January 27, 2022
  15. Brian Daboll (New York Giants): January 28, 2022
  16. Kevin O’Connell (Minnesota Vikings): February 2, 2022
  17. Doug Pederson (Jacksonville Jaguars): February 3, 2022
  18. Mike McDaniel (Miami Dolphins): February 6, 2022
  19. Dennis Allen (New Orleans Saints): February 7, 2022
  20. Todd Bowles (Tampa Bay Buccaneers): March 30, 2022
  21. Sean Payton (Denver Broncos): January 31, 2023
  22. DeMeco Ryans (Houston Texans): January 31, 2023
  23. Shane Steichen (Indianapolis Colts): February 14, 2023
  24. Jonathan Gannon (Arizona Cardinals): February 14, 2023
  25. Jerod Mayo (New England Patriots): January 12, 2024
  26. Antonio Pierce (Las Vegas Raiders): January 19, 2024
  27. Brian Callahan (Tennessee Titans): January 22, 2024
  28. Jim Harbaugh (Los Angeles Chargers): January 24, 2024
  29. Dave Canales (Carolina Panthers): January 25, 2024
  30. Raheem Morris (Atlanta Falcons): January 25, 2024
  31. Mike Macdonald (Seattle Seahawks): January 31, 2024
  32. Dan Quinn (Washington Commanders): February 1, 2024

Checking In On Unresolved WR Situations

Wide receiver rumors continue to dominate the NFL’s post-minicamp quiet period. The shift atop the receiver market this offseason has complicated matters for other teams, while multiple clubs are also dealing with players attached to upper-middle-class accords.

With training camps less than a month away, here is a look at where the unresolved wideout situations stand:

Brandon Aiyuk, 49ers

This situation that has generated the most offseason rumors at the position; the 49ers-Aiyuk negotiations have dragged on for months. Progress has been scarce here, to the point Aiyuk requested a meeting to address his value and issues with the 49ers’ tactics during these talks. The Vikings’ Justin Jefferson extension has affected these conversations, with Aiyuk’s camp now seeking a full guarantee near the number ($88.7MM) the Minnesota superstar scored. AAV-wise, Aiyuk’s camp has been connected to pursuing a deal that matches or surpasses the $30.01MM number the Lions reached for Amon-Ra St. Brown. Aiyuk did not show for OTAs or minicamp.

Aiyuk, 26, is due a $14.12MM fifth-year option salary. His next step would be to hold out, risking $50K in per-day fines. The 49ers could waive them, as they did for Nick Bosa, since Aiyuk is on a rookie contract. That separates this situation from a few others here, and it is certainly possible the sides do not come together on a deal. Aiyuk not bringing down his guarantee request would run the risk of that happening.

While Aiyuk expects to be a 49er for a fifth season, the value gulf here — one partially created by the big-ticket deals other WRs have agreed to this offseason — threatens to prevent this situation from concluding smoothly like Deebo Samuel‘s did in 2022. The 49ers guaranteed Samuel $41MM at signing, illustrating how far the team and Aiyuk may be apart. Conversely, an agreement here — with the 49ers preparing for a Brock Purdy payday and having drafted Ricky Pearsall in Round 1 — would point to a 2025 Samuel trade. The 49ers discussed trades involving both their top wideouts, but John Lynch shut down those rumors post-draft.

Amari Cooper, Browns

The two-year Browns contributor joined Aiyuk in skipping minicamp, having seen his Cowboys-constructed contract fall in the pecking order (from second to 20th) due to the market booms of 2022 and 2024. Cooper signed a five-year deal, as the Cowboys prefer longer-term accords, in 2020 and missed out on cashing in as the market soared during the contract’s lifespan. Having played the lead role for a depleted Browns offense during an 11-6 2023 season, Cooper is aiming to score another payday ahead of his age-30 season.

Browns GM Andrew Berry identified Cooper as an extension candidate earlier this offseason, and Kevin Stefanski acknowledged talks have taken place. The Browns certainly had to assume they would be dealing with Cooper on the contract front once they gave trade pickup Jerry Jeudy a $41MM guarantee at signing (sixth among WRs). The ex-Bronco has yet to post a 1,000-yard season. Cooper has seven, though last season marked the older Alabama alum’s first 1,200-yard year.

With Deshaun Watson in Year 3 of a $230MM guaranteed extension, the Browns feature an unusual roster component. If Cooper were to hold out, the Browns would be unable to waive his $50K-per-day fines due to the 2015 first-rounder not being on a rookie contract.

As it stands, Cooper is tied to a $23.78MM cap number. Cleveland could reduce that with an extension, but Cooper’s age offers a slight complication. This does not appear an acrimonious dispute, and the sides are hoping for a pre-training camp resolution.

Tee Higgins, Bengals

This matter appears simpler, as Higgins has signed his $21.82MM franchise tender. Unlike Jessie Bates two years ago, Higgins is obligated to attend camp. The other eight players to receive a franchise or transition tag have signed extensions, each doing so several weeks ago. The Bengals have shown no indications they plan to extend their No. 2 wide receiver before the July 15 deadline, and while Higgins requested a trade, he has acknowledged he expects to remain in Cincinnati for the 2024 season. A trade could occur after the tag deadline, but the Bengals are highly unlikely — after resisting trade interest at the 2023 trade deadline — to move Higgins this year.

The Bengals and Higgins have discussed an extension for more than a year, and a modest offer — well south of $20MM per year — prompted the 6-foot-4 receiver to play out his fourth season. Gunning to dethrone the Chiefs and finish a mission they nearly accomplished in Super Bowl LVI, the Bengals tagged Higgins and are preparing to run back their standout receiver pair for a fourth year. If/once Higgins is tied to the tag this season, the sides cannot restart talks until January 2025. It is unclear if the Bengals would consider re-tagging Higgins next year, but the early word leans against this reality.

Joe Burrow‘s cap number spikes by $17MM between 2024 and 2025, moving past $46MM next year, and the Bengals have a receiver extension earmarked for Ja’Marr Chase. Though, Chase talks will be interesting after Jefferson’s guarantee figures surfaced.

Tyreek Hill, Dolphins

This is a rather unusual situation, but one that reminds of another Dolphins matter from recent years. Hill is tied to a four-year, $120MM extension; that deal runs through 2026. But the future Hall of Famer is already seeking a new contract. Teams rarely accommodate players with three years of team control remaining, due to the precedent it sets, but Hill has shown himself to be one of the top receivers of this era. He has delivered back-to-back first-team All-Pro offerings and has made a significant difference in Tua Tagovailoa‘s development. The Dolphins have not shut Hill down on this matter.

Hill, 30, is believed to have approached the Dolphins about an update before the St. Brown, Jefferson and A.J. Brown deals came to pass, but those contracts intensified the ninth-year veteran’s pursuit. Rather than a push for more guarantees on his current contract, Hill confirmed he is seeking a new deal. Teams are not big on giving back years to players, the Texans’ unusual move to lop three years off Stefon Diggs‘ contract notwithstanding, and agreeing on another extension — with customary guarantees — so soon would make for one of the more interesting decisions in this key chapter in WR history.

Dolphins GM Chris Grier has set a precedent on this front, giving in to Xavien Howard‘s demands for a new contract in 2022 despite being tied to a deal that covered three more seasons. The Dolphins have given Jaylen Waddle a big-ticket extension, one that is structured in a more player-friendly way than Hill’s backloaded $30MM-AAV pact. Signing deals that at the time broke the receiver AAV record, Hill and Davante Adams allowed their respective teams to insert phony final-year salaries — which almost definitely will not be paid out — to inflate the overall value.

No trade rumors have emerged here, as Hill wants to stay in Miami for his career’s remainder. Though, it will be interesting to see what comes out of these talks if the Dolphins decline Hill’s request this year. Hill is attached to a $31.23MM cap number.

CeeDee Lamb, Cowboys

The Vikings’ decision to authorize outlier guarantees for Jefferson probably affects the Cowboys most, as Lamb is also a 2020 first-round draftee who has shown himself to be one of the NFL’s best receivers. Lamb, 25, has been the centerpiece of the Cowboys’ passing attack since the team traded Amari Cooper — for salary purposes — in 2022. He is coming off a first-team All-Pro season — the first by a Dallas wideout since Dez Bryant in 2014 — and is tied to a $17.99MM fifth-year option figure. If Lamb does not land a new deal by training camp, he is prepared to follow Zack Martin‘s lead and hold out.

Dormant during the spring, Lamb extension talks are expected to pick up this summer. The Oklahoma alum’s interest in becoming the NFL’s highest-paid wideout veered toward shakier ground for the Cowboys following this offseason’s run of deals. The Cowboys not going through with a Lamb extension last year has certainly cost them, as Lamb’s camp has Jefferson’s guarantees to cite now. Dallas has not guaranteed a receiver more than $40MM at signing and typically holds the line on contracts spanning at least five years. Based on where the WR market has gone in terms of contract length, Lamb’s camp will likely make this a central issue in the sides’ negotiations.

Dallas not pushing this process past the goal line in 2023 has also created a situation in which Lamb and Dak Prescott are in contract years, a window that has opened just as Micah Parsons has become extension-eligible. The Cowboys are expected to first address their quarterback’s deal, which could be a tricky proposition due to Prescott’s tactics during his long-running extension talks earlier this decade, but a Lamb pact coming together by training camp is still in play. The Cowboys’ glut of extension candidates has created one of the more complicated contract situations in recent NFL history.

Courtland Sutton, Broncos

Checking in on a lower tier compared to the above-referenced receiver situations, Sutton continues to push for an update to his Denver deal. The Broncos have their top wide receiver attached to a four-year, $60MM extension that runs through 2025. Although just about every Broncos contract matter is overshadowed by the team’s Russell Wilson mistake, the team did well to lock down Sutton at what became a club-friendly rate during the 2021 season. After Sutton scored 10 touchdowns to help Wilson bounce back — to a degree, at least — in 2023, he has made an effort to secure better terms.

Sutton, 28, is believed to be angling for a raise from his $13MM 2024 base salary. The seventh-year target has been connected to seeking a bump to around $16MM. The Broncos did resolve a Chris Harris impasse by authorizing a raise, but the All-Decade CB was a better player who was in a contract year. Sutton reported to Denver’s minicamp but has not committed to showing up for training camp. Last month, the sides were at a stalemate. Tied to a $17.39MM cap number, Sutton would not be able to recoup any fines for a holdout due to being on a veteran contract.

Trade interest emerged during the draft, and the former second-round pick has regularly resided in departure rumors over the past two years. The Broncos cut the cord on fellow trade-rumor mainstay Jerry Jeudy, which stands to make Sutton more important as the team develops Bo Nix. Though, the Broncos have added a few wideouts on Sean Payton‘s watch. If younger players like Marvin Mims and fourth-round rookie Troy Franklin show promise, it is possible the Broncos revisit Sutton trade talks. Up until Week 1, only $2MM of Sutton’s base salary is guaranteed.

Bengals DL Joseph Ossai Discusses Expiring Contract

Joseph Ossai‘s first three years in the league have been defined by injuries. The former third-round pick is now fully healthy, and that couldn’t come at a better time for the impending free agent. While the Bengals defensive lineman’s expiring contract is naturally on his mind, Ossai is more focused on avoiding injuries ahead of the regular season.

“Perfect timing,” said of his current health (via Jay Morrison of ProFootballNetwork.com). “But nothing changes for me. My work ethic isn’t changing because it’s a contract year. No way. Yes, it does heighten things a little bit. I’ll admit that. But I’m not worried about it because my work ethic has never changed. It’s been the same since my freshman year in high school.”

Knee and wrist injuries forced Ossai to miss his entire rookie campaign. After delaying surgery, he got off to a slow start during his sophomore season. Just as he started finding his groove, the defensive end suffered a knee injury during the AFC Championship Game. It was a similar story in 2023. A shoulder injury slowed Ossai during OTAs, and a subsequent high ankle sprain limited him for much of last season.

After getting into 334 defensive snaps in 2022, Ossai was limited to only 177 defensive snaps in 2023. That led to a drop in counting stats; after finishing 2022 with 17 tackles, 10 QB hits, and 3.5 sacks, Ossai finished the 2023 campaign with only 10 tackles and one sack. With D.J. Reader no longer in Cincinnati, Ossai could be in line for a significant role behind Trey Hendrickson and Myles Murphy, and he believes his injury-free offseason will prepare him for a career year in 2024.

“[J]ust mentally, it’s been a world of difference,” Ossai said during OTAs. “Even though we’re not going full speed against each other, the individual drills are full speed. To go through that and not feel anything that’s putting doubt in your mind, that’s the biggest thing I would say.”