The Cincinnati Bengals always figured to — at a minimum — franchise tag star wide receiver Tee Higgins this offseason.
That’s an idea reinforced by a new report from Paul Dehner Jr. of The Athletic: “The writing is on the wall and all expectations are the Bengals will use a franchise tag on Higgins.”
The tag — due by March 5 — will check in at roughly $20.7 million and let the Bengals retain Higgins for at least one more year.
Cincinnati weaponizing the tag in order to keep Higgins opposite Ja’Marr Chase in Joe Burrow’s offense has been a foregone conclusion. Even the cap hit, while seemingly large, isn’t that big of a deal for a team with ample cap space and no other realistic tag candidates. It doesn’t hurt that Burrow’s cap hit on his extension doesn’t escalate until 2025, either.
Once the tag is applied (barring an extension before the tag deadline), the Bengals can match any offer from other teams or receive two first-round picks.
But there’s little play to the idea the Bengals actually trade Higgins, especially after what feels like a lost year due to the injury bug. If anything, this feels like the Jessie Bates situation, as the star safety played on the tag before leaving in free agency the following offseason.
If tagged, the Bengals and Higgins will have until July 15 to finalize a long-term extension. The two sides have attempted already, with Higgins, Chase and Burrow himself repeatedly making it clear they want to keep the proverbial band together.