Bengals reportedly placing franchise tag on Tee Higgins. What’s next?

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

The Cincinnati Bengals are keeping a key piece to their offense.

According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the Bengals informed wide receiver Tee Higgins they would be using their franchise tag on him for the 2024 season. The tag is expected to be worth around $21.8 million, fully guaranteed. The Bengals and Higgins now have until mid-July to get a long-term deal done, otherwise Higgins will be set to play on the one-year tender.

NFL teams have until March 5 to designate one player for a franchise tag, and that window to do so opened Tuesday. Often, many organizations will wait until closer to the deadline to make that decision, but Cincinnati wasted little time. No other team has used the franchise tag yet.

All signs pointed to the likelihood the Bengals would tag Higgins to prevent him from entering free agency and keep him around at least one more year; however, there were questions as to whether that investment would be too risky considering the player’s injury history.

It’s still possible the Bengals could trade Higgins, but quarterback Joe Burrow made it clear in January he expected the 2020 second-round draft to be back.

“I know Tee wants to be here,” Burrow said in January. “Tee knows we want him here. There’s not much to say in that aspect. Everybody’s expectations is Tee is going to be back. We’ll see. The offseason plays out in crazy ways you don’t expect. I’d love to have Tee back and I know he wants to be back.”

Higgins was due to make No. 1 wide receiver money somewhere if the Bengals didn’t tag him. The organization had tried negotiating a long-term extension last year but couldn’t reach an agreement while also considering other players needing paid.

Burrow got his $275 million extension in September. Ja’Marr Chase is due for one this year. It helps the NFL raised the salary cap by $30.6 million, but there are others that need paid as well with players like DJ Reader also heading into free agency.

Higgins, the team’s No. 33 overall in 2020 behind Burrow, was a key part of the rebuild that led to Cincinnati’s first playoff wins in 31 years leading up to a Super Bowl LVI appearance his second season. He had 908 yards receiving as a rookie when Burrow played just 10 games, and Higgins followed that with a pair of 1,000-yard seasons in 2021 and 2022, helping the Bengals to back-to-back AFC Championships.

This final season of his rookie deal was impacted by a pair of injuries, including a rib fracture and hamstring injury that limited him to 12 games and just 656 yards receiving and five touchdowns.

“He’s a big part of what we have done here,” Burrow said of Higgins in January. “It’s no secret our relationship. I expect Tee to be back. I think that’s the sentiment in the locker room. We all want Tee back. We know what kind of player he is. We know what kind of person he is. He’s what being a Bengal is all about. Like you said, we’ll see, but I think we should have a good opportunity.”

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