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Bengals have officially applied the franchise tag to Tee Higgins

It was widely expected and this morning it became official: The Bengals have applied the franchise tag to wide receiver Tee Higgins.

That means Higgins has a one-year, $21.816 million contract offer in hand and he can sign it any time he wants and get that salary fully guaranteed for the 2024 season. If Higgins goes that route, he'll get paid this year and then next year either re-sign with the Bengals, hit unrestricted free agency, or get franchised again in 2025 and have a one-year $26.18 million contract offer in hand.

But Higgins likely won't sign the tag, at least in the short term. Instead, he'll continue negotiating with the Bengals on a long-term deal. He can also negotiate with other teams, but any team signing him would have to send the Bengals its next two first-round draft picks, so that's unlikely.

It's also possible that the Bengals and another team could work out a trade, with Higgins signing a long-term deal with the other team and the other team giving the Bengals some compensation less than the two first-round picks. That is a definite possibility.

The Bengals have quarterback Joe Burrow locked in with a long-term contract, and they'll want to get a lucrative long-term deal done with wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase as well. Given how much salary cap space is going to be invested in Burrow and Chase in the coming years, they may conclude that they can't afford to keep Higgins in the long run. For now, however, they're not letting him get away.