Bengals’ Tee Higgins won’t negotiate extension during season, expected to hit free agency: Source


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Cincinnati Bengals receiver Tee Higgins will not negotiate an extension with the franchise during the season and is expected to become a free agent this offseason, according to a league source. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Cincinnati made Higgins an offer during the offseason but he declined the deal that a source described as “low.”
  • Higgins, the Bengals’ 2020 second-round pick, has recorded two 1,000-yard receiving seasons and 19 touchdowns in three seasons.
  • He finished Sunday’s loss to the Cleveland Browns with no catches on eight targets.

The Athletic’s instant analysis:

What happened between Higgins and the team?

This was always going to be the most challenging aspect of Cincinnati’s extension offseason. They added a year to Trey Hendrickson’s deal, extended Logan Wilson and, of course, paid Joe Burrow. Higgins needing at or near the top of the market when Ja’Marr Chase is eligible for an extension next season was going to be tough and likely require Higgins settling well below the $25 million-plus viewed as cost for a premium receiver.

There was interest on both sides, but instead, he’ll count just $3.9 million against the cap this year as the Bengals try to win that elusive Super Bowl. The Bengals have strictly and almost exclusively refused to negotiate new contracts in season. — Dehner

What happens next?

This went in the same direction as the negotiations with Jessie Bates two years ago, with the same agent (David Mulugheta). Bates ended up disappointed and frustrated not getting what he believed to be his value, then played the following season on the franchise tag before hitting his big deal in free agency with Atlanta. The tag will be the next inflection point here and one that would make the most sense for Cincinnati.

If the Bengals put the tag on Higgins in the spring for a projected $22 million, the team would maintain exclusive negotiating rights, could bring him back for one more prime year or also have an option to tag and trade him for a premium if they feel an extension won’t happen. Merely letting Higgins walk in free agency would only net a likely third-round compensatory pick in 2025. — Dehner


Higgins totaled 3,028 receiving yards in his first three NFL seasons and has been a big part of the Bengals’ success since 2020, which includes a Super Bowl appearance in 2021. Cincinnati, however, made quarterback Joe Burrow the highest-paid player in NFL history last week. Top receiver Ja’Marr Chase is also eligible for a new contract next offseason.

Though rival executives have speculated the Bengals could trade Higgins, director of player personnel Duke Tobin was adamant this offseason that Higgins wouldn’t be moved.

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(Photo: Joseph Maiorana / USA Today)

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Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams is a writer and editor. Angeles. She writes about politics, art, and culture for LinkDaddy News.

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