Higgins attends voluntary offseason program

Mike Florio and Chris Simms explore how Tee Higgins will end up putting pressure on the Bengals in his own way by not thinking twice about being at the voluntary offseason program.

Video Transcript

- Tee Higgins' name has popped up from time to time in this offseason cycle. There was a suggestion maybe the Bengals would trade him. There's only so much cap money to go around. Are they going to be able to keep Joe Burrow and Ja'Marr Chase and Tee Higgins? It kind of bubbled up, and then it went away. This would have been the time to trade him if you wanted significant draft assets in return because he's entering the final year of his contract.

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And even though he's in a position where he could voice his displeasure about the absence of a contract by not showing up for offseason workouts, he's choosing to be there. Here's Tee Higgins from yesterday regarding his decision to be present for the voluntary offseason program.

TEE HIGGINS: I mean, I love the game, man. You know, I wanted to come in and work. I mean, I live here in Cincinnati. Why not be here and work out? You know what I'm saying? For free. So, I mean, at the end of the day, I'm just here to get my work in.

- For you, is there a message in that too of like--

TEE HIGGINS: I mean, not necessarily. I mean, people can put it that way. At the end of the day, I'm here for me and I want to get my body in the best shape to play at the highest level come game time.


- I mean, people have some people in their camp who say don't do that. Was there anybody that recommended you, hey, don't go?


- Or you were just like nobody knows I'm coming.

TEE HIGGINS: No. My agent was even like, man, do what you want to do. At the end of the day, it's whatever you want to do. I'm not going to tell you what to do, and that was my decision to come back and come work out.

- Yeah. That's his call. That's his decision. He wants to be there. He wants to be around. I think he understands that if they're not going to work out a deal now, it's still in his best interest to go out and have a big season. He's taking on a risk, but if they don't give you the contract that allows you to move the injury risk to the team, what's your other choice, not play? You've got no other option. You've got no other avenue. You've got no other pathway. You've got to go do it.


And yeah, it's good for the team that they have somebody who's willing to give up his leverage, not necessarily good for the kid, but he just wants to play. He wants to be there. Sometimes no amount of business analysis is going to change the fact that this is just what he wants.

- Yeah.

- All the other stuff doesn't matter. This is what he wants, and he's getting what he wants.

- No. Yeah, Mike. I mean, it goes back into the conversation. I mean, you bring it up a lot. We hit it on yesterday I think a little bit real quickly, just that this is where guys' love for the game, love to want to be great can maybe hurt them a little bit in the business side because you don't draw that line in the concrete, right, to go oh wait, no, no, I'm not going here until I get paid.


But he's a guy that loves the sport, and I think this is the way I would be. I think there's a lot of guys like this in the NFL. And I'd be going, wait, I'm going crazy at home. I need to be around my guys. I need to work, whatever else. I can make my point and still want to be paid, and in a lot of ways in that organization and in that locker room, it's going to put more pressure on the Bengals because a lot of the coaches are going to look at this guy. He's just selfless. He's our kind of guy. He's a Bengal guy.

They're going to be saying that to the people in the front office. The locker room is going to be talking to coaches and people in the front office going what's taking so long? I mean, you drafted him. You like him. He's your guy. He's awesome. He does everything the right way. Are we not going to reward him? Come on. So he's going to put pressure on the Bengals in his own way I think by just being there.

Now, the big question with that, Mike, is just, yeah, what does he get paid? What's the number? You mentioned it. Burrow, Ja'Marr Chase is going to get paid like one of the top receivers in football. We know that. Tee Higgins, where does he fit and where is that price? And that's probably the thing that the Bengals are trying to figure out with his representation.

- Life's a lot easier when you stink every year, isn't it?


- Yeah, right? [LAUGHTER]

- This is one of the byproducts of the Bengals being so bad. They were in position to get Burrow first overall, Chase fifth overall. They had Higgins already.

- They got Higgins in the Burrow draft at 33, pick 33.

- My goodness.

- Yeah. Yeah.

- My goodness. Think about that.

- I know.

- What a draft that is. It's not quite '74 Steelers yet, but my goodness, to have those guys, especially if they can keep them together. But that's part of the challenge now. How do you cut up that salary cap pie and have enough money left over to put a team around him? And I know that's very good for the overall competitive interest of the game, but it does tend to keep the players from earning what maybe they deserve.


- Yeah.

- Unless they want to do a Davante Adams thing where they go to a team that isn't very good that's willing to pay $30 million a year. So I don't know where Higgins fits.

- Well yeah. What do you think, Mike? Spitballing. Like, you think he's a top 20 receiver, right? I mean, where is he, you think, roughly? It's a tough one.

- I think he's top 20. I think it's hard to properly assess him because Ja'Marr Chase is on his team.

- Sure.

- But he's got number one-- he's a guy-- he's not Alvin Harper. Remember Alvin Harper back in the '90s?

- Awesome number two.

- He was the number two to Michael Irvin.


- Right.

- And when he went somewhere else-- he went to Tennessee, right? When he left and he went to another team--

- Never heard of him again.

- I don't mean-- he went to Tennessee College, I think.

- Yeah.

- That was it. It was gone. And there've been others like that too. There was-- god, and see, I can't even remember who it is because he went somewhere else. Peerless Price. Peerless Price was a great number two receiver. Went somewhere else, nope. Never worked.

- Yeah.

- Not the number one guy. In reverse, I've said this recently, when Antonio Brown left the Steelers. Hey, JuJu Smith-Schuster, team MVP.


- Right.

- Great number two. Make him number one. Nope. Doesn't have the skills to be the number one. Higgins has the skills to be a number one.

- Agree.

- He can be the guy.

- Yeah.

- Stretches the field, and attracts double coverage. So he could leave and go somewhere else and be number one. The problem, though, is, Chris, after last year when they had the Davante Adams, Tyreek Hill spending spree, I don't know how it's going to shake out now. We saw other guys get contracts in the wake of Davante Adams and Tyreek Hill.

- Yeah.

- We saw AJ Brown get his deal, $25 million or so per year in new money from the Eagles. We saw DK Metcalf get his. We got kind of a running back thing going on with the receiver market. There's a lot of good receivers. Where do the best ones fit when we're talking about $30 million now being the high watermark, until Justin Jefferson gets his deal that pushes him-- I believe whenever they pay Justin Jefferson, he's going to be the highest-paid receiver in football. But it's got to be that unicorn-type player to stretch the rubber band.


- Right.

- Tee Higgins doesn't do that.

- Yeah. That's right.

- Ja'Marr Chase could if he plays it out.

- Right.

- So where does Higgins fall below the top of the top?

- Yeah.

- I don't know.

- Yeah.

- And if the Bengals and Tee Higgins' agents knew, he'd have a deal.

- Exactly. I mean, you're right. He's not unicorn status, right? I don't think he's Ja'Marr Chase, Justin Jefferson, Tyreek Hill, right? Those are guys that can like do anything on the field. But damn, like you said, he's still a number one in the NFL and really, like, up there. It's not like, oh, if there was 32 number ones you'd go, oh, he's probably 31 or 32. No. It's above that. It is. He's special.

Like you said, he could command double team coverage. He's one of those guys that if he's covered, he's still not covered, like we saw in the Super Bowl two years ago, or the AFC Championship game last year. Oh, you're covered? So what. I'm under pressure. Let me just throw it up. Boom! He jumps up, Moss's somebody, gets the ball. He's great that way.

I mean, you can look at the Miami game on Thursday night early in the year. They throw him a short pass. He makes somebody miss. He runs up the sidelines for a long touchdown. He's got it all, like you said. He really does. The sweet spot as I sit here and look at receiver salaries, right, where you go, OK, like, DJ Moore is the number 10 receiver in football right now as far as average salary. He's making $20 million a year, right?

There's Keenan Allen at $20 million, Chris Godwin at $20 million, Mike Williams at $20 million. Tee Higgins is better than that group right there. Keenan Allen's a little different, but I would take Tee Higgins over Mike Williams or Chris Godwin, right? Not DJ Moore. I'm not going to say I'm going to take him over that, but what I'm trying to say is Amari Cooper is making $20 million. Brandin Cooks is making $19.8 million. He's better than Brandin Cooks in my opinion, right? So that's where you start to go holy crap, yeah, what kind of paycheck are they going to have to pay him?

- Deebo is at $23.85 million. Would you put him in that category?

- Probably not. I think that's where I draw the line, right? Him and Terry McLarin at $23 million, and Terry at $22.7 million, right?

- Split the difference?

- I think so.

- Let's just do let's do $23.5 million. How about $23.5 million? Do I hear $23.6 million?

- I would say. Yeah. For this right now, sold, sold, sold. I would if I'm Tee Higgins.

- [BABBLING] Swing batter, $23.5 million.

- Hey, batter, batter, batter.

- You know what, though? We're looking at this list that Pete has put in the document that we share to help guide us through the potential pitfalls of a two-hour live show.

- Yeah.

- 15 players making $20 million or more. I think back to earlier this year when I said I was hearing from multiple sources that Odell Beckham Jr. wanted $20 million and people lost their shit about that.

- Yeah.

- How could he not want $20 million when you look at this list? How does he not think among these top 15 players.

- Right.

- Who are making $20 million or more per year. So $20 million is a given. The question is how-- where is it between $20 million and $30 million? You've got a lot of guys between $20 million and $30 million, and you only have like two or three clustered near the top.

And really, Hill and Adams are the two-- Davnate-- DeAndre Hopkins, excuse me. DeAndre Hopkins deal is a little fugazi at this point. I put that one aside. Cooper Kupp, that's an aberration. They drank all of Matthew Stafford's 42 that day at the Super Bowl parade, and they gave Stafford and Kupp and Donald all this ridiculous money. And now, they're paying for it on the back end literally. But where do you fall between $30 million, $28 million, and $20 million?

- Yeah.

- And I think we've kind of pegged it. I think we've done-- Bengals, we don't even want any money. Just send us like a fruit basket or something.


- $23.5 million is the new money average for Tee Higgins. That sounds right. We've solved your problems. Now you can go try to pay Joe Burrow.

- No, and see that's where-- that goes-- and I was going to go so let's get to the next piece of this puzzle, right? Because, I mean, we know they got Ja'Marr Chase coming up now next year, but Burrow's contract and the number and what he's willing to maybe not take or leave for everybody else, it's going to go a long way to make sure that he can keep the three amigos together here. And then when I say that, I mean him, Chase, and Higgins.