Ja’Marr Chase

Ja’Marr Chase Attending Bengals’ Minicamp

Ja’Marr Chase is among the wideouts eligible for a new deal who elected to remain absent from his team’s OTAs. The Bengals Pro Bowler is in attendance for Cincinnati’s mandatory minicamp, however.

The likes of CeeDee Lamb (Cowboys) and Brandon Aiyuk (49ers) have set themselves up for fines by choosing to skip out on minicamp, but Chase has elected to take the opposite route. The latter, to little surprise, chose to wait for Justin Jefferson to sign his Vikings extension before taking part in serious Bengals negotiations. With his former LSU teammate having reset the market, Chase can now proceed on that front.

Cincinnati has a pair of key decisions to make at the receiver position, of course, with Tee Higgins on track to play under the franchise tag. He has not taken part in extension talks for over a year, though, leading to serious questions about his long-term Bengals future. Regardless of if Higgins is retained beyond 2024, Chase will no doubt be a central figure in the team’s long-term plans. The 24-year-old is on the books through 2025 via the fifth-year option.

The Jefferson accord (carrying an historic AAV of $35MM) includes higher guarantees than Chase’s camp expected. It should help the bargaining power of all ascending wideouts around the league, and Chase is among those with the production to warrant a similar deal to Jefferson’s. Cincinnati has enjoyed the Chase-Higgins duo for the past three years, but a major investment to coincide with the one made in Joe Burrow will be needed to keep it intact.

The Bengals are not known for making long-term investments featuring guaranteed money deep into the pact, but that should be required to hammer out a Chase deal. Talks can take place now that he is back with the team, although it would be surprising if an agreement was reached any earlier than training camp next month.

Latest On Bengals, WR Ja’Marr Chase

The most recent update on the Ja’Marr Chase contract situation indicated he and the Bengals would wait for Justin Jefferson‘s extension to be signed before working out their own. With that important domino having now fallen, Chase’s status will again garner attention.

Jefferson met his target of topping all non-quarterbacks with respect to AAV on his Minnesota pact ($35MM). The extension also puts him in a tier of his on the topic of guaranteed money, with nearly $89MM locked in at signing and $110MM in total guarantees present. Especially considering the Bengals’ history as it pertains to long-term contracts, the structure of the Jefferson accord is significant.

Chase’s former LSU teammate secured guarantees (either in full or in part) for all but the last season of his monster pact. That represents a noteworthy long-term commitment on the part of the Vikings, one the Bengals have traditionally avoided with respect to guaranteeing multiple years of a deal. Quarterback Joe Burrow is of course an exception, and it will be interesting to see if Chase can join him on that front.

The Athletic’s Paul Dehner Jr. reports the guarantees present in the Jefferson accord (more so than its value) were “eye-opening” (subscription required). Chase – along with Cowboys standout CeeDee Lamb is eligible for a deal similar in AAV at a minimum, although Jefferson may serve as the receiver benchmark for quite some time. Increased talks between Lamb and Dallas are expected in the immediate future as he skips out on mandatory minicamp.

Chase (who was absent from the start of OTAs) could follow suit, but in any event Dehner adds the Bengals have the option to remain patient. Cincinnati made the obvious decision to pick up the 24-year-old’s fifth-year option this offseason, keeping him on the books through 2025. Receivers have generally not landed massive extensions until after their fourth year, but 2024 has offered exceptions in that respect.

Having amassed 3,717 yards and 29 touchdowns in 45 games, Chase certainly has a case to secure a deal rivaling that of Jefferson. As Dehner reports, however, there is an expectation that inking a deal this offseason would involve Chase’s camp ceding “more than a little” in contract talks. Waiting until another spike in the cap ceiling (coupled with another wave of receiver deals near the top of the market) could, coupled with another strong season, help Chase’s leverage.

Of course, Cincinnati must approach Chase negotiations with the status of fellow wideout Tee Higgins in mind. The latter is on track to play on the franchise tag in 2024 (although he has yet to sign the $21.82MM tender), and a commitment beyond the coming season would complicate a Chase pact. The status of both pass-catchers will remain worth watching closely.

Ja’Marr Chase, Bengals Extension Talks In “Holding Pattern”

As the Bengals navigate the Tee Higgins situation, they have another star wideout who’s awaiting some financial security. Ja’Marr Chase is now eligible for an extension, and when the Bengals opened their organized team activities on Tuesday, the receiver was not in attendance.

[RELATED: WR Ja’Marr Chase Not At Bengals’ OTAs]

While Chase’s absence is surely connected to his contract situation, it sounds like Cincy’s hands are currently tied. As ESPN’s Ben Baby points out, Chase and the Bengals are “in a holding pattern” while both sides await Justin Jefferson‘s inevitable extension with the Vikings. As Baby notes, even before Chase was eligible for an extension, the wideout was pointing to Jefferson’s impending deal. The Bengals have continued to make it clear that signing Chase is a priority for the organization, so it’s more a matter of when than if Chase signs a deal.

There isn’t as much urgency in Cincinnati as there is in Minnesota. Jefferson is heading into the final season of his rookie deal, so the Vikings would have to play the franchise-tag game if the two sides can’t hammer out an extension. After predictably having his fifth-year option picked up, Chase still has two years remaining on his rookie contract, so he has the luxury of seeing how negotiations unfold with his former LSU teammate.

Chase, Jefferson, and Cowboys star receiver CeeDee Lamb will be looking to reset the wide receiver market. Amon-Ra St. Brown and A.J. Brown‘s recent extensions pushed that value past a $30MM average annual value. Brown currently paces the position in AAV ($32MM) and total guarantees ($84MM), two marks that will surely be pushed down the list once that aforementioned trio inks their next contracts.

Considering the front office’s commitment to Joe Burrow, Chase’s next deal will further limit the organization’s ability to spend. We’re already seeing this upcoming extension’s influence on the Bengals’ handling of Higgins, so some cost certainty could go a long way for the front office.

WR Ja’Marr Chase Not At Bengals’ OTAs

Several extension-eligible receivers are skipping out on OTAs as they try to exert their leverage for new deals. To no surprise, that list includes Ja’Marr Chase.

The Bengals opened their organized team activities on Tuesday, and ESPN’s Ben Baby notes Chase was among the players not in attendance. The three-time Pro Bowler is in his first year of being eligible for an extension, though he is on the books through 2025 with his fifth-year option having been picked up. As a result, Chase is on track to collect $21.82MM next year.

His annual earnings on a multi-year pact will of course be much higher. Chase, along with the likes of Justin Jefferson (Vikings) and CeeDee Lamb (Cowboys) is a candidate to reach the top of the receiver market on his next pact. Amon-Ra St. Brown and A.J. Brown‘s respective extension pushed that mark past $30MM per season; Brown’s AAV sits at $32MM.

As expected, fellow Bengals wideout Tee Higgins has not yet signed his franchise tag. As a result, he is not eligible to take part in the team’s OTAs. Higgins remains in Cincinnati’s long-term plans, but keeping him in the fold would require a lucrative commitment in addition to the one forthcoming for Chase and the one made last offseason to quarterback Joe Burrow. The latter has resumed throwing, but he will work with a notably different array of receivers this spring if Chase and Higgins remain absent.

Veteran Tyler Boyd departed in the Bengals in free agency, taking a one-year Titans deal as his former team plans for an expensive Chase-Higgins tandem. The latter’s future remains in the air, but the latter has cemented his status as one of the league’s top wideouts at any age. Chase, 24, has amassed 3,717 yards and 29 touchdowns in regular season play, adding a combined 45-588-3 statline in two playoff runs. Even with Burrow attached to a $55MM-per-year deal, keeping him on the books for the long haul will be critical to Cincinnati’s offense.

Team and player have plenty of time to hammer out an agreement in Chase’s case. The Bengals’ actions with Higgins will no doubt be a critical short-term consideration, but regardless of what happens on that front the former Offensive Rookie of the Year is positioned to cash in on his next deal. It would come as a surprise if he participated in Cincinnati’s remaining voluntary workouts without an agreement in hand, though Chase could return for mandatory minicamp in June and training camp the following month.

2025 NFL Fifth-Year Option Tracker

NFL teams have until May 2 to officially pick up fifth-year options on 2021 first-rounders. The 2020 CBA revamped the option structure and made them fully guaranteed, rather than guaranteed for injury only. Meanwhile, fifth-year option salaries are now determined by a blend of the player’s position, initial draft placement and performance- and usage-based benchmarks:

  • Two-time Pro Bowlers (excluding alternates) will earn the same as their position’s franchise tag
  • One-time Pro Bowlers will earn the equivalent of the transition tag
  • Players who achieve any of the following will receive the average of the third-20th-highest salaries at their position:
    • At least a 75% snap rate in two of their first three seasons
    • A 75% snap average across all three seasons
    • At least 50% in each of first three seasons
  • Players who do not hit any of those benchmarks will receive the average of the third-25th top salaries at their position

With the deadline looming, we will use the space below to track all the option decisions from around the league:

  1. QB Trevor Lawrence, Jaguars ($25.66MM): Exercised
  2. QB Zach Wilson, Broncos* ($22.41MM): Declined
  3. QB Trey Lance, Cowboys** ($22.41MM): Declined
  4. TE Kyle Pitts, Falcons ($10.88MM): Exercised
  5. WR Ja’Marr Chase, Bengals ($21.82MM): Exercised
  6. WR Jaylen Waddle, Dolphins ($15.59MM): Exercised
  7. T Penei Sewell, Lions ($19MM): Extended through 2029
  8. CB Jaycee Horn, Panthers ($12.47MM): Exercised
  9. CB Patrick Surtain, Broncos ($19.82MM): Exercised
  10. WR DeVonta Smith, Eagles ($15.59MM): Extended through 2028
  11. QB Justin Fields, Steelers*** ($25.66MM): Declined
  12. DE Micah Parsons, Cowboys ($21.32MM): Exercised
  13. T Rashawn Slater, Chargers ($19MM): Exercised
  14. OL Alijah Vera-Tucker, Jets ($13.31MM): Exercised
  15. QB Mac Jones, Jaguars**** ($25.66MM): Declined
  16. LB Zaven Collins, Cardinals ($13.25MM): Declined
  17. T Alex Leatherwood, Raiders: N/A
  18. LB Jaelan Phillips, Dolphins ($13.3MM): Exercised
  19. LB Jamin Davis, Commanders ($14.48MM): Declined
  20. WR Kadarius Toney, Chiefs***** ($14.35MM): Declined
  21. DE Kwity Paye, Colts ($13.4MM): Exercised
  22. CB Caleb Farley, Titans ($12.47MM): Declined
  23. T Christian Darrisaw, Vikings ($16MM): Exercised
  24. RB Najee Harris, Steelers ($6.79MM): Declined
  25. RB Travis Etienne, Jaguars ($6.14MM): Exercised
  26. CB Greg Newsome, Browns ($13.38MM): To be exercised
  27. WR Rashod Bateman, Ravens ($14.35MM): N/A; extended through 2026
  28. DE Payton Turner, Saints ($13.39MM): Declined
  29. CB Eric Stokes, Packers ($12.47MM): Declined
  30. DE Greg Rousseau, Bills ($13.39MM): Exercised
  31. LB Odafe Oweh, Ravens ($13.25MM): Exercised
  32. LB Joe Tryon-Shoyinka, Buccaneers ($13.25MM): Declined

* = Jets traded Wilson on April 22, 2024
** = 49ers traded Lance on August 25, 2023
*** = Bears traded Fields on March 16, 2024
**** = Patriots traded Jones on March 10, 2024
***** = Giants traded Toney on October 27, 2022

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.

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.

Bengals WR Ja’Marr Chase To Miss Time

With Bengals wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase dealing with a separated shoulder, the Cincinnati offense will likely be forced to play without him, per Ian Rapoport of NFL Network. After the star wideout underwent an MRI today, the team came away with the expectation that he will miss at least one game but could miss more.

We’ve seen Chase attempt to play through a minor injury in the past last year, when a hairline hip fracture was aggravated a week later and ended up keeping him out of four games as he missed five weeks. Perhaps, with that memory as fresh as it is, the Bengals have decided to take the cautious route.

With three weeks to go in the regular season, Cincinnati remains solidly in the playoff mix. At 8-6, the Bengals currently hold the sixth seed in the AFC, holding tiebreakers over the Colts, Bills, and Texans. The remaining schedule consists of trips to Pittsburgh (7-7) and Kansas City (9-5), as well as a home matchup with the Browns (9-5).

Since the Steelers are now planning to roll with their third quarterback this year, it makes sense that the Bengals would use this opportunity to rest Chase. They’ll likely aim to make sure they have their leading receiver back in time for key matchups against the Chiefs and Browns. Still, it sounds like the Bengals are worried Chase may need to rest for longer than a single week.

So far this year, the Bengals haven’t nearly had the extremely strong, three-headed receiving attack with Chase, Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd that they had last year. Without Chase, Higgins and Boyd will take on a larger role, something they have shown they are more than capable of in the past, but filling in as the third receiver will be Trenton Irwin who is currently a distant fourth receiver on the team.

Cincinnati will hope they won’t have to rely on that threesome for too long, though. By letting Chase sit this week, the Bengals are hoping he will be able to return in time to help them close out the playoff push.

Latest On Bengals’ WR Corps

NOVEMBER 12: Chase will be active for today’s bout with the Texans. Ian Rapoport of NFL.com says that Chase “did what was necessary” in his warmups this morning to get the green light.

NOVEMBER 11: Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow will be a bit shorthanded coming into a battle with an excited Texans team. We know that much. We learned yesterday that the team’s second-leading receiver, Tee Higgins, will be held out as he deals with a hamstring injury. Today, it was confirmed that rookie receiver and return specialist Charlie Jones, who has been on injured reserve for Cincinnati’s last five games, has been downgraded from questionable to out, per Jay Morrison of Pro Football Network.

Already down two wide receivers, things could potentially become even more dire for the Bengals offense if star wideout Ja’Marr Chase is unavailable to play tomorrow. According to Dianna Russini of The Athletic, Chase, who is listed as questionable after being limited in practice while dealing with a back injury, will be a true gametime decision, working out Sunday morning in order to determine whether or not he will be able to play.

If Chase is unable to go tomorrow, that will leave Cincinnati with an active roster lineup of Tyler Boyd, Trenton Irwin, and sixth-round rookie Andrei Iosivas. That trio has combined for 51 catches, 424 receiving yards, and four touchdowns. Chase alone has 64 receptions for 697 yards and four touchdowns. His presence against the Texans could be crucial in keeping a hot Bengals team rolling.

Knowing that they will be extremely short-staffed, Cincinnati has elected to promote two practice squad wide receivers as their standard gameday elevations, choosing Stanley Morgan and undrafted rookie Shedrick Jackson. Morgan has been with the team for the last five seasons, catching five balls for 29 yards over that time. Jackson would be making his NFL debut tomorrow after averaging 13.2 yards per catch over a five-year college career at Auburn.

We should know more tomorrow about the Bengals’ full situation at wide receiver, most notably Chase’s availability. Burrow and the rest of the offense will have to be at their best knowing that the wide receiver corps will be a bit thin.

AFC North Notes: Bengals, Rudolph, Ravens

The Bengals will have some important financial decisions to make in the coming months. Quarterback Joe Burrow is eyeing a sizable pay day on his first NFL extension, but the organization will also have to make important decisions on wideout Tee Higgins and linebacker Logan Wilson.

Naturally, the front office is hoping they’ll be able to retain their entire core. Speaking to reporters the other day, Bengals executive vice president Katie Blackburn stated that the organization would like to re-sign all of their notable extension-eligible players, and she added that Burrow’s impending contract shouldn’t impact the status of players like Higgins or Wilson.

“They’re all great guys that we love having and want to have for a while on our team,” she said (via Kelsey Conway of the Cincinnati Enquirer). “So just a process that always plays out how it plays out however it plays out we’ll be looking at all of the options and alternatives and thinking about what we might be able to get done.”

Wilson, a 2020 third-round pick, has emerged as one of Cincy’s most reliable defenders. He’s started all 28 of his regular season appearances over the past two years, collecting 223 total tackles, 3.5 sacks, and a pair of forced fumbles. Considering the organization’s eventual investment in their offense, it makes sense that they’d want to retain one of their defensive leaders.

Meanwhile, many have wondered if the Bengals will be able to afford both Higgins and Ja’Marr Chase, who is eligible for an extension next offseason. Blackburn noted that the front office has time on their side as they look to fit in extensions for their key players, but she also hinted that the team’s ability to re-sign the two wide receivers will be dependent on the players themselves.

“We’ll find out,” Blackburn responded when asked if the Bengals could afford both receivers. “You know it, there are so many things that come into play. So, we’ll just play it by ear as we go and do our best to see where we can get to.”

More notes out of the AFC North…

  • The Steelers have Kenny Pickett and Mitchell Trubisky atop their quarterbacks depth chart, but the front office could continue to add to the position. According to Mark Kaboly of The Athletic, the organization would like to add a developmental quarterback to the mix. As the writer notes, that QB would likely be added via the draft, although he notes that the organization could choose to bring back Mason Rudolph, who is still only 27.
  • The Ravens are currently armed with the 22nd pick in the draft, but it remains to be seen if they’ll end up making a selection at that point in the draft. Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic writes that the Ravens are probably more likely to trade back than they are to make a selection at No. 22. The Ravens only have five picks in the upcoming draft, and while the front office may state publicly that they’re fine with the lack of selections, Zrebiec opines that they’ll be hunting for more picks. General manager Eric DeCosta previously hinted that the organization could be looking to make a trade in the first round. “We’ve got five picks. We wish we had more,” the GM said (via Zrebiec). “Our goal is probably to get more along the way if we can, depending on how things fall. But we see a great opportunity for us to add some quality players and be a better football team.”
  • There have been a few coaching changes in the division. James Urban, who was previously the Ravens’ quarterbacks coach, and Craig Ver Steeg, who was Baltimore’s running backs coach, have been reassigned to senior football analyst/game-planning roles, per Zrebiec. The team also switched Keith Williams from pass game specialist to assistant wide receivers coach. Meanwhile, the Steelers announced that they’ve hired Glenn Thomas to be an offensive assistant coach. Thomas brings more than 20 years of coaching experience in both college and the NFL.