Tee Higgins seems to accept that he'll play under tag

Bengals receiver Tee Higgins recently said he expects to be in Cincinnati this year. His comment likely means two things.

First, and most obviously, he won't be traded. Second, and perhaps less likely, he won't be signing a long-term deal that pays him at the level he desires.

The lack of a trade isn't a surprise. After word got out that he asked for a trade, the Bengals didn't get an overwhelming amount of interest. Even then, the Bengals have a tendency to be very determined in their positions — as evidenced by, for example, their reluctance to trade quarterback Carson Palmer (until the Raiders made an overwhelming offer) and their refusal to even entertain the possibility of trading the first pick in the 2020 draft to the Dolphins.

When it comes to the tag, the Bengals have a history of keeping the tagged player for one year and then letting him go. (The only franchise-tagged player they signed to a long-term deal, Carl Pickens, was cut after one year of it.)

Given that Higgins is due to make $21.8 million this year, that's not a bad deal. While it's not the kind of generational payday that a great player will realize with a long-term deal, the $21.8 million compares favorably to the real numbers for the high-end receivers.

Absent a long-term deal, Higgins will make great money for a year and then become a free agent. Even if the Bengals tag him again, he'll make at least $26.16 million in 2025.

A long-term deal would need to pay Higgins at least $48 million over the first two years, fully guaranteed, to justify acceptance. With receiver Ja'Marr Chase also in line for a new deal, it will be hard for the Bengals to give major contracts to both players.

So it likely will be a major salary for Higgins in 2024, and a likely ticket to the open market in 2025. And he seems to be fine with that.

Here's one more reason for Higgins to be fine with it. As the first player taken in round two of the 2020 draft, he wasn't subject to the fifth-year option. And his franchise tender of $21.8 million exceeds the fifth-year options of the 2020 first-round receivers who have not yet gotten long-term deals: CeeDee Lamb ($17.99 million); Justin Jefferson ($19.75 million); and Brandon Aiyuk ($14.1 million).