Tee Higgins

Bengals Use Franchise Tag On Tee Higgins

The Bengals have a number of pending free agents to deal with heading into the new league year, but the team has made the decision to cover their bases with wide receiver Tee Higgins by informing him that they will apply the franchise tag to him in 2024, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network. The team has since announced the move.

If Higgins had been selected one pick earlier in 2020, Cincinnati may have been enjoying the luxury of a fifth-year option right now. Instead, as the first pick of the second round, Higgins’ four-year rookie contract has now come to an end. One of the more consistent producers of the past four years, Higgins was sure to draw a nice deal in free agency.

[RELATED: 2024 NFL Franchise Tag Candidates]

The franchise tag numbers were released by the NFL today, informing us that the Bengals move will cost them $21.82MM. The Bengals will now have until July 15 to work out a long-term deal, and as Tony Pauline of Sportskeeda.com writes, Cincy is currently trying to do just that. If player and team cannot come to terms by the March 5 deadline for utilizing the franchise tag, the Bengals will hit Higgins with the tag but will continue extension discussions.

As a rookie, Higgins took over in a receiving room that included Tyler Boyd and an aging A.J. Green. He would lead the team in both receiving yards (908) and touchdowns (six). His sophomore season, Higgins watched a rookie Ja’Marr Chase do the same thing he had done his rookie year. Despite improving his yards (1,091) and matching his touchdown total (six) from the previous year in two fewer games, Higgins was outpaced by Chase’s stellar rookie totals. In 2022, the two established themselves one of the premier receiving duos in the league as Higgins once again surpassed the 1,000-yard mark and caught seven touchdowns.

In this season’s contract year, Higgins failed to deliver a fourth straight strong season to really bolster his free agency resume. Still, despite missing five games, Higgins was second on the team with five touchdown receptions and was 11 yards short of finishing second in receiving yards, as well. Had he played the extra five games, he would’ve been on pace to see similar numbers to his rookie year; this all despite the season-ending injury to star quarterback Joe Burrow.

Regardless, the Bengals have had to set their sights on the futures of all three of their top receivers, including veteran Tyler Boyd. Chase still has two years on his rookie deal, including the fifth-year option, but as one of the league’s best young wideouts, Cincinnati should feel early pressure to get him inked to a long-term deal sooner rather than later. Boyd also faces free agency after finishing out his four-year, $43MM extension. The Bengals famously are not fans of doling out third contracts to veterans, but they did break their own rule by extending defensive end Trey Hendrickson last year. It will be interesting to see if Boyd returns or if Cincinnati goes in a younger direction.

While decisions on Chase and Boyd remain, Higgins’ situation becomes a bit less pressing now. As noted above, the Bengals will continue working on an extension to keep Higgins around long-term, but by applying the franchise tag, they’ve laid out a safety net that buys them a bit more time.

For now, this puts Higgins just under the average annual value of players like Deebo Samuel and Terry McLaurin and just over players like D.J. Moore and Keenan Allen. Cincinnati holds $72.84MM of cap space, after the release of the new salary cap numbers today, good for fifth-most in the league. The Bengals will need every bit of it to navigate some of the contract decisions they’ll have to make moving forward.

2024 NFL Franchise Tag Candidates

A valuable tool for teams to keep top free agents off the market, the franchise tag has been in existence since 1993. This week brought the opening of the 2024 tag window. Clubs have until 3pm CT on March 5 to apply tags. As the Giants’ situation showed last year, most of the tag-related business comes near the close of this window. Teams will continue to work toward re-signing their respective tag candidates, thus preventing a lofty franchise tender from hitting their cap sheet.

The legal tampering period opens March 11, with the new league year (and official free agency) starting March 13. Once a player is tagged, he has until July 15 to sign an extension with his respective team. Absent an extension agreement by that date, the player must play the 2023 season on the tag (or go the Le’Veon Bell/Dan Williams/Sean Gilbert route, passing on guaranteed money and skipping the season).

High-profile free agents remain weeks away from hitting the market. As PFR’s tag recipients list shows, a handful of players are prevented from taking their services to free agency each year. This year looks to present a few more tag candidates compared to 2023. With a handful of teams determining if they will need to use the tag to prevent a free agency path, here are the players who figure to be tagged or at least generate conversations about being franchised ahead of the March 5 deadline:


Josh Allen, OLB (Jaguars)
Tag cost: $24MM

GM Trent Baalke did not leave much suspense when he addressed Allen’s future last month. The veteran exec said the 2019 first-round pick will be a Jaguar in 2024, indicating the team would use its franchise tag if necessary. The Jaguars do have Calvin Ridley as a free agent, but the team would owe the Falcons a 2024 second-round pick if it extended the wide receiver’s contract before the start of the league year. The second pick sent to Atlanta will only be a third-rounder if Jacksonville lets Ridley hit free agency. It makes more sense for Jacksonville to circle back to Ridley after allowing him to test the market. An Allen tag effectively ensures that will happen.

Timing his sack breakthrough well, Allen registered a Jags-record 17.5 during his contract year. The five-year Jaguar has combined for 55 QB hits over the past two seasons and ranks top 10 in pressures over the past three. The tag regularly keeps top edge rushers from hitting free agency, and the 26-year-old pass rusher — while obviously wanting to be paid what he’s worth — expressed a desire to stay in Jacksonville long term.

The Jags have regularly unholstered their tag during the 2020s, cuffing Yannick Ngakoue in 2020 and then keeping Cam Robinson off the 2021 and ’22 markets. The team kept Evan Engram out of free agency last year. Robinson signed an extension in 2022, and the Jags re-upped Engram last July. The Ngakoue situation could be notable, as the edge rusher became disgruntled with the Jags and was eventually traded to the Vikings that summer. No signs of that level of trouble are brewing with Allen yet.

Jaylon Johnson, CB (Bears)
Tag cost: $19.8MM

Johnson is likely to become the first franchise-tagged cornerback since the Rams kept Trumaine Johnson off the 2017 market. The Bears are the most recent team to tag a corner, using the transition tag to cuff Kyle Fuller in 2018. They will almost definitely follow suit with Johnson, who has been rumored to be tagged for several weeks. A Ryan Pace-era draftee, Johnson expressed his desire to stay with the Bears ahead of his contract year. With that platform campaign producing some twists and turns, that price has gone up significantly.

After unsuccessful in-season extension talks, the Bears gave Johnson an 11th-hour opportunity to gauge his trade value. The Bears did not alert teams Johnson, 24, was available until the night before the Oct. 31 deadline. Although the Bills and 49ers engaged in talks about a trade, the Bears held out for a first- or second-round pick. Nothing materialized, which will likely come up during the team’s talks with Johnson. The Bears then extended trade pickup Montez Sweat, leaving Johnson in limbo. But the former second-round pick stuck the landing on an impact season. He is firmly in the Bears’ plans, and the team holds more than $66MM in cap space — plenty to squeeze in a tag onto the payroll.

Pro Football Focus’ top-graded corner in 2023, Johnson displayed a new gear that has made him worthy of a tag. Finishing with four interceptions and allowing just a 50.9 passer rating as the closest defender, the Utah alum soared to second-team All-Pro status. The Bears, who last used the tag on Allen Robinson in 2021, made no secret of their interest in retaining Johnson and will have a few more months to negotiate with him as a result of the tag.

Likely tag recipients

Brian Burns, OLB (Panthers)
Projected tag cost: $24MM

The Panthers hiring a new GM and head coach classifies this as just short of a lock, but familiar faces remain. Carolina promoted assistant general manager Dan Morgan to GM and blocked DC Ejiro Evero from departing. Burns has been viewed as a likely tag recipient since last season, after negotiations broke down. The Panthers have not offered a negotiating masterclass here, as Burns has been extension-eligible since the 2022 offseason. Since-fired GM Scott Fitterer had viewed Burns as a re-up candidate for two offseasons, but multiple rounds of trade talks boosted the 2019 first-rounder’s leverage.

In what looks like a mistake, the Panthers passed on a Rams offer that included two first-rounders and a third for Burns at the 2022 trade deadline. Carolina then kept Burns out of 2023 trade talks with Chicago about the No. 1 pick, ultimately sending D.J. Moore to the Windy City for the Bryce Young draft slot. Carolina also kept Burns at the 2023 deadline, as teams looked into the top pass rusher on the NFL’s worst team. Burns also saw his position’s market change via Nick Bosa‘s record-setting extension ($34MM per year). The 49ers’ landmark accord came to pass after Burns had set a $30MM-AAV price point, complicating Morgan’s upcoming assignment.

Burns, 25, has registered at least 7.5 sacks in each of his five seasons. While he has only topped nine in a season once (2022), the two-time Pro Bowler is one of the league’s better edge rushers. Given the Panthers’ history with Burns, it would be borderline shocking to see the team allow the Florida State alum to leave in exchange for merely a third-round compensatory pick.

Burns has said he wants to stay with the Panthers; he is unlikely to have a choice this year. The Panthers last used the tag to keep right tackle Taylor Moton off the market in 2021; the sides agreed to an extension that offseason.

Tee Higgins, WR (Bengals)
Tag cost: $21.82MM

Seeing their hopes of capitalizing on the final year of Higgins’ rookie contract dashed due to Joe Burrow‘s season-ending injury, the Bengals look to be giving strong consideration to keeping the Burrow-Higgins-Ja’Marr Chase trio together for one last ride of sorts. The Bengals hold $59.4MM in cap space — fifth-most currently — and structured Burrow’s extension in a way that makes a Higgins tag palatable. Burrow’s deal does not spike into historic cap territory until 2025.

While a future in which Chase and Higgins are signed long term is more difficult to foresee, the Bengals still carry one of the AFC’s best rosters. It is likely Burrow’s top two weapons remain in the fold for at least one more year. Higgins, 25, did not come close to posting a third straight 1,000-yard season. Burrow’s injury had plenty to do with that, though the former second-round pick started slowly. A Bengals 2023 extension offer underwhelmed Higgins, but the Bengals kept him out of trades. A tag will give Cincinnati the option to rent him for 2024. A tag-and-trade transaction is viewed as unlikely, as the Bengals load up again.

How the organization proceeds beyond 2024 will be a key storyline, but the Bengals — who kept Jessie Bates in similar fashion in 2022 — are positioned well to run back perhaps the NFL’s best receiving tandem. While director of player personnel Duke Tobin stopped short of guaranteeing Higgins will be a Bengal in 2024, signs point to it.

Justin Madubuike, DL (Ravens)
Tag cost: $22.1MM

Seeing their defensive coordinator depart and once again facing questions at outside linebacker, the Ravens have the option of keeping their top 2023 pass rusher off the market. They are probably going to take that route. Madubuike raised his price considerably during an impact contract year, leading the Ravens with 13 sacks. While Mike Macdonald was able to coax surprising seasons from late additions Jadeveon Clowney and Kyle Van Noy, Madubuike drove Baltimore’s defensive engine and will likely be guaranteed a high salary by signing his franchise tender.

Perennially interested in hoarding compensatory picks, the Ravens have regularly let breakthrough pass rushers walk in free agency. This dates back to the likes of Paul Kruger and Pernell McPhee and subsequently included Za’Darius Smith and Matt Judon. The Ravens have only been able to replace Judon with stopgap options — from Clowney to Van Noy to Justin Houston — and again must figure out a solution alongside Odafe Oweh on the edge. Madubuike, 26, proved too good to let walk; the former third-round pick will once again be expected to anchor Baltimore’s pass rush in 2024.

Antoine Winfield Jr., S (Buccaneers)
Tag cost: $17.12MM

We mentioned Winfield as the Bucs’ most likely tag recipient around the midseason point, and signs now point to that reality coming to pass. The Bucs want to re-sign Baker Mayfield and Mike Evans. The bounce-back quarterback’s tender price would check in at nearly $36MM, and because Evans was attached to a veteran contract, his tag number would come in well north of Higgins’ — at beyond $28MM. As such, the Bucs cuffing Winfield has always made the most sense, and after the second-generation NFL DB’s dominant contract year, it would be stunning to see the team let him walk.

The Bucs have let their recent top free agents test free agency, only to re-sign Shaquil Barrett (2021), Carlton Davis (2022) and Jamel Dean (2023). Winfield may be on a higher plane, having secured first-team All-Pro acclaim last season. Davis and Dean have never made a Pro Bowl; Winfield’s productive and well-regarded 2023 stands to separate him. Winfield, 25, tallied six sacks and three interceptions while forcing an NFL-leading six fumbles. This included a pivotal strip of DJ Chark in the Bucs’ Week 18 win over the Panthers, which clinched them the NFC South title.

Winfield will undoubtedly be eyeing a top-market safety extension. Derwin James established the current standard, $19MM per year, just before the 2022 season. Last year’s safety market did not feature big-ticket prices, for the most part, but the Falcons made Jessie Bates (four years, $64MM) an exception. If Winfield were to reach free agency, he would be expected to eclipse that.

The Bucs, who have used the tag three times in the 2020s, should not be considered likely to let Winfield follow Davis and Dean’s path by speaking with other teams. Tampa Bay has used the tag three times in the 2020s, cuffing Barrett in 2020 and tagging Chris Godwin twice. The team eventually re-signed both, and while the statuses of Mayfield and Evans (and All-Pro tackle Tristan Wirfs) create a crowded contract queue, the Bucs will certainly be interested in re-upping Winfield.

On tag radar

Saquon Barkley, RB (Giants)
Tag cost: $12MM

Barkley has said he wants to finish his career with the Giants, and the team will meet with the Pro Bowl running back’s camp at the Combine. But a recent report indicated the team is highly unlikely to tag the six-year veteran a second time. The Giants should not be ruled out from reversing course and keeping Barkley, given his importance to an otherwise low-octane offense, but it appears they are prepared to move on if the talented RB does not accept their extension offer this time around. A host of talented backs await in free agency, though Barkley would likely be the top prize were he to reach the market.

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Bengals Want To Re-Sign Tee Higgins, Uncertain To Retain Jonah Williams

Bengals director of player personnel Duke Tobin quickly took Tee Higgins out of trade rumors in his contract year, indicating the team’s No. 2 wide receiver would not be available. While Higgins did not take a step forward in 2023, he still stands to be one of the top pass catchers available — should the Ja’Marr Chase sidekick reach free agency.

Tobin is a bit less emphatic about Higgins’ future with the team this year. The former second-round pick played out his rookie deal and will be eligible for unrestricted free agency in March. If the Bengals do not have Higgins franchise-tagged by March 5 or re-signed by March 11, the Clemson product will be free to speak with other teams.

Seeing as Chase will understandably be the receiver priority and the team having made Joe Burrow the NFL’s highest-paid player, the prospect of losing Higgins has long been on the horizon. The Bengals do, however, want to re-sign the four-year starter. A January report also indicated the team is prepared to tag the 6-foot-4 pass catcher.

We’ll see what happens this year,” Tobin said, via the Cincinnati Enquirer’s Kelsey Conway. “I want Tee Higgins back. Everyone on our team would like to have Tee Higgins back. Again, there’s one pie and how big of a slice that takes and what else we can’t do because of it, we’ll have to determine and we’ll see.”

Higgins, who finished an injury-plagued season with career-low marks in receptions (42) and yards (656), would cost approximately $21.7MM to retain on the tag. The Bengals cuffed A.J. Green back in 2020. That situation, when Burrow was on a rookie deal, obviously differs from present circumstances. Burrow is now the NFL’s salary kingpin, and Chase is on track to one day become the league’s highest-paid receiver.

Thanks to the fifth-year option, Chase can be kept on his rookie contract through the 2025 season. No team in the fifth-year option era has extended a first-round receiver with two years of control remaining on a rookie deal; as was the case with Justin Jefferson in Minnesota, this points Cincinnati toward Chase extension talks in his fifth year (2025) rather than this offseason.

Still, a future with Chase on a deal that eclipses $30MM per year will impact the Bengals’ decision on Higgins. The sides engaged in extension talks before the season, but Higgins did not find the team’s offer appealing. The Bengals still rebuffed trade interest before the deadline. Burrow’s contract also features a midlevel cap number in 2024 ($29.7MM) before spiking past $45MM in 2025. Burrow’s contract structure and the prospect of Chase being kept on a rookie rate next season does keep the door open for a Higgins rental year.

Tobin seems less optimistic Jonah Williams can be retained. The Bengals blindsided Williams by signing Orlando Brown Jr. to a $16MM-per-year deal, a move that kicked the three-year left tackle to the right side. Williams requested a trade but returned to the fold during the summer. It certainly looks like the four-year O-line starter will be on the move soon.

I don’t know what the future holds. We’ll see,” Tobin said, via Conway. “We’ve got this pie, whether there’s a big enough piece of pie for him or he’s going to get a bigger piece of pie somewhere else, we’ll see. It’s hard to predict right now exactly what other teams are going to do and their interest level in any of our free agents. We’re proud of Jonah for the way he played.”

Williams, 26, returned from his postseason knee injury to start all 17 Bengals games this past season. Pro Football Focus graded him 59th among tackles, and it will be interesting to see if Williams makes it clear ahead of free agency he wants to return to left tackle for his next team. Regardless of position, the 2019 first-round pick would be one of the top O-linemen available if he hits the market.

Latest On Bengals, WR Tee Higgins

The 2024 free agent receiver class has a number of intriguing names, including Tee Higgins. The Bengals should not be expected to let him reach the open market, but his future is nevertheless currently in the air.

Higgins’ rookie contract will expire in March, and a long-term deal would come at a signficant cost given his age and production in Cincinnati. The Bengals are also in danger of losing veteran Tyler Boyd in free agency, and Ja’Marr Chase is now eligible for a second contract. The latter has lived up to expectations as one of the league’s top wideouts in his first three years, and ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler notes it is expected around the league that Chase will be a higher priority than Higgins from a financial perspective.

Chase is still under contract for 2024, and the Bengals will no doubt pick up his fifth-year option for the following season. Still, carrying both Chase and Higgins on lucrative second contracts (with quarterback Joe Burrow attached to his $55MM-per-year deal) for years to come would be a challenge. For that reason, many have pointed to Higgins as a franchise tag candidate; applying the one-year tender could open up a trade possibility allowing the Bengals to recoup at least some value for him.

At this time, however, a tag-and-trade does not appear likely. The Bengals received trade interest in the 2023 offseason and at the trade deadline, but they made it clear they were not looking to move Higgins. The 25-year-old has publicly stated an intention of remaining in Cincinnati, but outside interest remains strong. Fowler adds that multiple teams are prepared to pay Higgins as a No. 1 receiver.

The top of the WR market saw a substantial jump in value during the 2022 offseason, when Tyreek Hill became the position’s first member to reach $30MM in annual compensation. In all, 13 receivers are attached to deals averaging at least $20MM per season, and Higgins could likely do the same if he were to wind up on a team willing to pry him away from the Bengals. The Clemson product has averaged roughly 64 catches, 920 yards and six touchdowns per campaign in his career, figures brought down by his totals in an injury-marred 2023 campaign.

The stance the Bengals take with respect to their offseason priorities and where Higgins fits into them will be a key storyline to follow in the build-up to the franchise tag deadline (March 7) and the start of the new league year one week later. An outside market for his services still exists, but a mutual desire to keep him in Cincinnati could nevertheless produce a multi-year agreement. If talks on that front do not gain traction soon, though, questions about Higgins’ future for 2024 and beyond will remain.

WR Tee Higgins Wants To Remain With Bengals; Tag-And-Trade Scenario Not In Play?

The offseason has officially begun for the Bengals, a team which fell short of expectations in 2023. Cincinnati faces a number of key decisions with respect to pending free agents, chief among them being wideout Tee Higgins.

The former second-rounder is set to reach the open market for the first time in his career, although the franchise tag looms as an option for the team to retain him for at least one more year. Higgins is an obvious tag candidate given his importance to Cincinnati’s offense and the lack of progress made on extension negotiations last offseason. He has received the backing of fellow WR Ja’Marr Chase as well as quarterback Joe Burrow for a deal of some kind, and he is indeed aiming to remain with the Bengals in 2024 and beyond.

“Them telling me that they want me to come back, man, it’s family,” Higgins said, via Bleacher Report’s Scott Polacek“We’ve been playing together for three or four years now, and I personally would love to be back playing with those guys. It’s not in my hands now, but when the time comes and Cincinnati is there, that’s the number one option right now.”

The Bengals will no doubt reciprocate Higgins’ desire to continue their relationship for at least the short-term future. Cincinnati turned down trade interest both in the offseason and in advance of the trade deadline, leaving the door open to a potential departure. The sides have engaged in contract talks, but little traction has been gained on that front. Negotiations were tabled until the end of the campaign, and it will be interesting to see how much progress can be made in the coming weeks.

Given Higgins’ age (25 by the start of next season) and production (3,684 yards and 24 touchdowns in four seasons) a strong trade market would exist if the Bengals tagged him and looked to move on without the prospect of a multi-year agreement. However, Paul Dehner Jr. of The Athletic writes Higgins is essentially a lock to be in place for 2024 (subscription required). As a result, a tag-and-trade scenario would come as a surprise, even if talks on a long-term agreement did not produce an deal.

The Bengals will have other decisions to make at the receiver position beyond Higgins. Chase is eligible for a monster extension, although the team could buy more time for negotiations on that front by exercising his fifth-year option for 2025. That move will no doubt be made in any case, but the former No. 5 pick profiles as a higher extension priority than Higgins. Veteran Tyler Boyd, meanwhile, is a pending free agent and thus in danger of departing Cincinnati for the first time in his career.

The franchise tag for receivers is projected to come in at a cost of $21.66MM. Applying it would lock in Higgins for at least one season, and it would give both parties until mid-July to work out a longer agreement. If a trade is indeed off the table, though, it can at least be safely assumed he will get his wish of staying in Cincinnati for 2024 at a minimum.

Franchise Tag Candidate: Tee Higgins

The Bengals have enjoyed one of the league’s best receiver trios over the past three years with Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd. The latter two are pending free agents, though, leaving the team with interesting decisions to make.

Higgins in particular is due for a raise this offseason, either on a long-term Bengals agreement, a deal sending him to a new team or a franchise tag. ESPN’s Dan Graziano notes the former second-rounder is indeed a “strong candidate” for the one-year tender. Franchise tags in 2024 are projected to check in at $21.66MM for wideouts, but that figure could be a placeholder for a multi-year pact in Cincinnati or elsewhere.

Graziano’s colleague Jeremy Fowler adds Higgins could become a tag-and-trade option if talks on a deal fail to gain traction. The team shot down trade speculation this past offseason, leaving pressure on all parties to reach an agreement. The 24-year-old has dealt with injuries this campaign, but he has multiple 1,000-yard seasons on his resume and could operate as an acquiring team’s top WR over a long-term stretch. The Bengals were unable to hammer out a new Higgins contract in the summer, and talks will not resume until the end of the campaign.

The Clemson alum is on track to finish with career lows in receptions and yards, although he has delivered a strong showing recently in the absence of Chase. The latter will be eligible for a monster extension this offseason, and he profiles as a higher priority than Higgins on a long-term commitment. Should talks on an agreement stall once again, the Bengals would no doubt have a signficant market in a tag-and-trade scenario.

The 2024 offseason figures to have more high-profile receiver options available than last year. The likes of Mike Evans, Michael Pittman Jr., Calvin Ridley and Marquise Brown are set to see their respective contracts expire. Higgins will be one of the most sought-after WRs if he is available, as foreshowed by midseason attempts made to acquire him from around the league.

Both the Jets and Panthers included Higgins in their efforts to add at the trade deadline. No deals emerged, but agreeing to one would have been contingent on hammering out a multi-year contract from New York and Carolina’s perspective. If a similar appetite exists in the spring, the Bengals could receive numerous trade offers upon using the tag. A Cincinnati agreement could still ensue, of course, but that would complicate the team’s financial outlook.

Keeping Chase, Higgins and Boyd on the books in 2024 and beyond would prove challenging for the Bengals. The eldest member of the group is well aware his future with the franchise is in question, given the presence of younger WR options in need of long-term commitments. Boyd has expressed a desire to remain in Cincinnati, where he has spent all seven seasons of his career. A Higgins deal would greatly increase the chances of Boyd departing, a move which would create a notable vacancy in the team’s offense.

The Bengals are currently projected to be near the top of the league in terms of 204 cap space. Among the many key organizational decisions yet to be made, though, the one concerning Higgins’ future will be one of the most important. His situation will be worth watching closely once Cincinnati’s season comes to an end.

Injury Updates: Garrett, Bengals, Etienne, Dolphins

Browns pass rusher Myles Garrett likely suffered some structural damage in his left shoulder, an injury that was aggravated during last weekend’s loss. As Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com writes, it’s uncertain if the injury will even require surgery, and Garrett is determined to continue playing this season.

“I feel terrible,” Garrett said following Sunday’s loss to the Broncos. “Everything hurts, shoulder hurts. But we’ve got to keep on going, keep on rolling till the wheels fall off. We’re having great success and enjoying how this team is really coming together, especially down the stretch. And we’re going to continue to keep on working hard to be fresh and fit whenever we get to Sunday.”

Garrett said he felt a pop in his shoulder during the game, but he also admitted that he’s been dealing with a shoulder issue for the entire season. The injury could be attributed to the AC joint sprain Garrett suffered last season, or it could be an entirely new injury, with Cabot speculating that the pass rusher may be dealing with a partial dislocation.

The former first-overall pick is on track to earn another All-Pro nod in 2022. In 11 games, Garrett has collected 13 sacks, 23 QB hits, and 12 tackles for loss.

More injury notes from around the NFL…

  • The Bengals got some good news on both sides of the ball ahead of Monday Night Football. Per ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Bengals wideout Tee Higgins and linebacker Logan Wilson will play against the Jaguars. Higgins has missed the past three games while dealing with a hamstring injury, while Wilson is recovering from an ankle injury suffered last weekend. Unfortunately, it’s not all good news in Cincinnati. After suffering a sprained ankle at practice this week, Bengals cornerback Cam Taylor-Britt will not play on Monday night, per Schefter.
  • On the other side, Jaguars head coach Doug Pederson said he’s expecting running back Travis Etienne to play on Monday night, per ESPN’s Michael DiRocco. Etienne suffered a rib injury last weekend that briefly forced him to exit the game, and he’s been practicing on a limited basis throughout the week. If he is sidelined on Monday, the Jaguars would lean on D’Ernest Johnson and rookie Tank Bigsby.
  • De’Von Achane is expected to play for the Dolphins this weekend, per Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. After returning from a knee injury in time for Week 11, the running back was once again sidelined with the issue for Week 12. Meanwhile, Terron Armstead said he intends to play this weekend despite suffering a quadriceps injury on Black Friday. It was initially thought that the offensive tackle could miss multiple weeks, so this is an encouraging update for the Dolphins offense.

Panthers Pursued WRs Davante Adams And Tee Higgins, DE Montez Sweat At Deadline

Despite a win-loss record that placed them squarely in the “sellers” category, we heard in the run-up to last month’s trade deadline that the Panthers were operating as both buyers and sellers. We also heard that Carolina was especially interested in acquiring a top-flight wide receiver, and to that end, David Newton of ESPN.com reports that the team pursued both the Raiders’ Davante Adams and the Bengals’ Tee Higgins, though neither club was willing to make a deal. Newton adds that GM Scott Fitterer also tried to acquire DE Montez Sweat, whom the Commanders ultimately traded to the Bears.

The early struggles of rookie quarterback Bryce Young, the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft, have created plenty of concern among the Panthers’ fanbase, especially since No. 2 overall pick C.J. Stroud is playing at a high level for the Texans and since Carolina paid such a premium for the privilege to climb up the draft board to select Young. However, Newton writes that head coach Frank Reich and general manager Scott Fitterer still believe their plan to trade high-end draft capital — including their 2024 first-round pick — and top receiver D.J. Moore was a sound one that will pay dividends in the future. Likewise, Dianna Russini of The Athletic (subscription required) says that the organization is still unified in the belief that Young is the long-term answer at quarterback.

In order to get the most out of Young, the Panthers understand that they need to give him more playmakers, which is why they pursued Adams and Higgins (they were not alone in that regard, as the Jets made a play for both receivers as well). Adams’ career accomplishments, which include six Pro Bowl nods and three First Team All-Pro selections, dwarf those of Higgins, who has not yet made a Pro Bowl. Nonetheless, Higgins is six years younger than Adams, is coming off back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, and clearly has WR1 upside.

While Adams is under club control through 2026, Higgins is due to be a free agent at season’s end. If they had acquired the Clemson product, the Panthers would have needed to sign him to an extension or put the franchise tag on him, so his contract situation would have been a priority agenda item alongside a new deal (or franchise tag) for edge rusher Brian Burns. According to Newton, Carolina retained Burns through a second consecutive deadline in which he generated plenty of trade interest because the team views him and Young as foundational pieces of a future contender. Though the Panthers are presently without a 2024 first-rounder, they do have $42MM in projected cap space next season along with six other draft picks, and the plan is to turn those assets into talent to complement Burns and Young.

The latest reporting on the matter suggests that Burns and the Panthers are not actively engaged in contract talks, and Newton confirms prior reports that the two sides were far apart when negotiations stopped in December. If player and team cannot come to terms, Burns will be hit with the franchise tag, according to Newton.

If Fitterer were successful in his pursuit of Sweat, he certainly would have had a dynamic pair of pass rushers to headline his defense. However, Sweat was also in a contract year at the time of his trade and signed a lucrative extension shortly after arriving in Chicago, so the Panthers would have needed to authorize a similar contract for Sweat or quickly close the gap with Burns in order to assure themselves of the chance to retain both players.

As it stands, Fitterer & Co. will be able to focus most of their early offseason efforts on Burns’ new deal — if Fitterer is still around, that is. Per Russini, there are some members of the organization that believe the roster has not been assembled correctly, and owner David Tepper is frustrated by a Reich-orchestrated offense that league sources have described as “boring,” “predictable,” and “lifeless.” Reich, of course, was hired by Fitterer, and Russini says the “message in the building” is that ownership needs to see offensive improvement in the second half of the season.

If that does not happen, then Russini expects changes to be made. It is unclear if that simply means a shake-up to Reich’s offensive staff, or if Reich himself could be in jeopardy. It is fair to wonder whether Fitterer might also be on the hot seat, though ownership apparently is satisfied with how the defense and special teams units are performing.

NFL Injury Updates: Higgins, Turner, Palmer, Saints, Jones

The Bengals will be without their second leading receiver for their Week 10 matchup against the Texans. According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, Tee Higgins will miss Sunday’s game after injuring his hamstring in practice on Wednesday. He will reportedly continue to be evaluated on a week-to-week basis.

Partially due to the early struggles of quarterback Joe Burrow, Higgins is off to the worst start of his career this season. After averaging 1,009.33 receiving yards in each of his first three seasons, Higgins is currently on track to finish the season with only 703 yards. Hamstring injuries have a tendency to linger, as well, threatening to take even more away from Higgins this year.

Leading wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase has been limited this week with a back injury and is currently listed as questionable. Should he play, though, he will be joined by Tyler Boyd, Trenton Irwin, and sixth-round rookie Andrei Iosivas. With Higgins out, tight end Irv Smith may, too, continue to see an increased role in the Bengals’ passing gameplan.

Here are a few other injury updates from around the NFL:

  • The Jets will be without yet another offensive lineman this week as backup lineman Billy Turner will miss Sunday’s game in Las Vegas, per Brian Costello of the New York Post. Turner suffered a “concerning” broken bone in his hand during his first start of the season last week that head coach Robert Saleh disclosed had required surgery. Turner was starting in place of injured right guard Connor McGovern, who was placed on injured reserve before last week’s game with a dislocated knee cap. With all the current injuries on the offensive line, New York only has three linemen on the active roster – Chris Glaser, Dennis Kelly, and Carter Warren – that it can turn to as a replacement starter this weekend. They also have Jake Hanson, Xavier Newman, and Rodger Saffold, who should be available off the practice squad. Saffold and Hanson are recent signings who may have been brought in to assist with the team’s plague of injuries on the offensive front.
  • Chargers wide receiver Josh Palmer was placed on IR earlier this week without much word on the specifics of what was being called a knee injury. Daniel Popper of The Athletic provided an update on Wednesday that Palmer is dealing with a knee sprain. Popper’s report comes from head coach Brandon Staley, who relayed that Palmer will obviously be out for the next four weeks, the minimum required on IR, but he has “no expectations” after that. They will simply have to reassess once Palmer is eligible to return.
  • Two Saints rookies suffered injuries this past Sunday. Defensive end Isaiah Foskey suffered “a low-grade quad strain,” according to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler. Foskey’s absence, as a rotational lineman, will open the door for more potential snaps for either Tanoh Kpassagnon or Kyle Phillips, who was signed to the active roster weeks ago but has yet to make his season debut. Foskey is expected to miss a week or two, but the injury isn’t considered serious. Running back Kendre Miller was the other Saints rookie to suffer an injury, spraining his ankle against Chicago last week, per Nick Underhill of NewOrleans.Football. He hasn’t participated in practice all week and will also be out this Sunday. It’s unclear whether or not his injury will linger to hold him out for much longer. Miller’s usage has decreased significantly since the return of Jamaal Williams, but with Eno Benjamin on IR, the team may feel the need to elevate practice squad running back Jordan Mims to back up Williams and Alvin Kamara.
  • The Browns will be down three offensive tackles for this weekend’s trip to Baltimore. According to Jeff Schudel of The News-Herald and Morning Journal, rookie fourth-round tackle Dawand Jones has been ruled out for Sunday’s game. Starting tackles Jack Conklin and Jedrick Wills both currently reside on IR, Conklin since Week 1 and Wills just this past week. Jones had been starting across from Wills in place of Conklin. With Wills and Jones out next week, Cleveland will have to start two fresh faces at offensive tackle. Schudel reports that James Hudson III is expected to start at right tackle. Starting left guard Joel Bitonio is expected to slide out to serve as a left tackle. Backup center Nick Harris will get an opportunity to start in Bitonio’s place at left guard. A beleaguered offensive line will face a significant challenge with three new starters in new positions against a Ravens defense that leads the league in sacks.

Jets Pursued Davante Adams, Tee Higgins, Mike Evans At Deadline

NOVEMBER 4: Confirming the Jets’ attempt at pulling off an Adams trade, ESPN’s Adam Schefter adds that New York contemplated such a move “throughout the summer.” Patience was exercised in terms of waiting for when to approach the Raiders, and a swap before the deadline would not have come as a shock given his frustrations with the previous regime. With Vegas having gone in a new organizational direction, though, it will be interesting to see how active the Jets are in making a renewed push for Adams in the offseason.

NOVEMBER 2: Mentioned as pursuing Mike Evans during training camp, the Jets do not appear to have shut down their efforts to upgrade their receiving corps. They kept going through this week’s trade deadline.

New York reached out on Evans once again during deadline week, per NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport, while calling the Raiders and Bengals on Davante Adams and Tee Higgins. The Jets did not end up making a move, and Rapoport adds the team circling back to wideouts did not involve conversations past the exploratory stage.

The Adams call obviously generates the most intrigue, given the Jets’ April trade for Aaron Rodgers. Adams going from the Raiders’ setup to Zach Wilson might not have been particularly appealing, but his Raiders extension runs through 2026. Rodgers also continues to reference an against-the-odds return from an Achilles tear this season — to the point the Jets are also aiming for a late-season return. Adams certainly would have moved the needle opposite Garrett Wilson this season, but even if Rodgers does not come back this year, he is expected to return for the 2024 season. Adams might be back in play ahead of that point, though the Raiders did not make him available this week.

The Raiders executed a surprise housecleaning shortly after midnight Wednesday morning, firing Josh McDaniels, GM Dave Ziegler and OC Mick Lombardi. This came just more than a day after Adams violently slammed his helmet down during a one-sided loss to the Lions. Adams has not topped 60 receiving yards in a game since Week 4; the ex-Rodgers WR1 has been vocal about the Raiders QBs’ inconsistency in locating him. With the power duo that traded for Adams gone, his Las Vegas future is in limbo. It is interesting Mark Davis let McDaniels and Ziegler operate through the deadline, considering his plan to scrap the setup he authorized in 2022. But for the time being, Adams is effectively trapped.

Adams, 30, showed support for the Raiders despite the Derek Carr decision this offseason. But with Jimmy Garoppolo struggling, Adams is now on a team executing a midseason reboot. The Jets, however, could have another chance to reunite Rodgers and Adams in 2024. An anonymous GM told the Washington Post’s Jason La Canfora that Adams will be traded during the ’24 offseason. It is unclear how the next Raiders staff will view Adams, but after he anchored three straight playoff-bound Packer teams’ receiving corps, languishing on a team potentially aiming to rebuild might not work at this point in the All-Pro’s career.

The Jets could also have another chance on Evans and Higgins. As of now, both are on track for free agency. Evans does not plan to talk an extension with the Buccaneers again, and with the perennial 1,000-yard pass catcher never previously reaching free agency, that would be an interesting chapter. The Bucs are not believed to have made Evans an offer to stay yet. Evans, 30, is in the final season of a five-year, $82.5MM extension. Fox Sports’ Greg Auman also adds the Jets did not call about Evans this week. While differing reports have come out about this situation, it does not appear any substantive Jets-Bucs conversations have occurred about the 10th-year receiver.

Higgins could be a franchise tag candidate, which would allow the Bengals to retain he and Ja’Marr Chase for another year. That said, the contract-year wideout has struggled this season. Joe Burrow‘s return to full strength may lead to a reignited Higgins soon, but thus far, the former second-round pick has compiled just 19 receptions for 218 yards in six games. Higgins and the Bengals could not agree on an extension this summer, and he is not planning in-season discussions. Teams called Cincinnati about Higgins, but considering the Bengals’ Super Bowl window, they were never expected to entertain inquiries. A more realistic trade scenario involving Higgins would be a tag-and-trade move next year.

With none of these Hail Mary-type trade efforts succeeding, the Jets will continue to rely on Garrett Wilson and Rodgers come-with guys Allen Lazard and Randall Cobb. Wilson is the only Jet to have surpassed 260 receiving yards this season. But these trade inquiries point to the team being interested in adding another impact weapon for Rodgers in 2024.