Tee Higgins: 'I do anticipate' playing for Bengals this season

Before the start of free agency, Tee Higgins reportedly requested a trade out of Cincinnati.

A month later, he sounds ready to suit up again for the Bengals.

The Bengals receiver addressed his status on Sunday while speaking with reporters at a youth football camp.

"I do anticipate it," Higgins said of playing for Cincinnati next season. "I've grown a love for Cincy that I didn't think I would. But, you know, man — looking forward to it."

That's far from a guarantee. But it's certainly reassuring for the Bengals and their fans as Cincinnati looks to return to Super Bowl contention following an injury-plagued 2023 season.

The Bengals placed the franchise tag on Higgins ahead of free agency. When the two sides didn't work out a long-term deal prior to the March 13 start of free agency, Higgins reportedly requested a trade. Since then, there's been no trade and no report of progress on a long-term deal.

A new deal is not anticipated. If Higgins does play for the Bengals next season, he'll likely do so on a franchise tag that will pay him roughly $21.8 million. That's more than twice the roughly $10.1 million he made over four seasons of his now-expired rookie contract. It's a lot of money to walk away from and a powerful incentive to not hold out.

Tee Higgins anticipates at least one more season with the Bengals. (Perry Knotts/Getty Images)
Tee Higgins anticipates at least one more season with the Bengals. (Perry Knotts/Getty Images)

Higgins has thrived since joining the Bengals in 2020 as a second-round rookie out of Clemson. In four seasons, he's averaged 64 catches, 921 yards (14.3 yards per reception) and six touchdowns per season. He's one of quarterback Joe Burrow's favorite targets and part of one of the NFL's top receiving tandems alongside perennial Pro Bowler Ja'Marr Chase.

With their retooled offense, the Bengals advanced to the AFC championship in consecutive seasons in 2021 and 2022, ending a five-year playoff drought. They advanced to the Super Bowl following the 2021 season.

They finished 9-8 in 2023 but missed the playoffs as multiple injuries, including those to Burrow, derailed their season. If Burrow returns healthy in the fall, expectations will once again be high in Cincinnati. Higgins is a significant part of those expectations.