April 20, 2024

Bengals WR Tee Higgins faces another prove-it year

The Cincinnati Bengals became the first NFL team to use the franchise tag this offseason, locking up wideout Tee Higgins for the 2024 season on Friday, per Ian Rapoport of NFL Network. 

The franchise tag, once signed, will pay Higgins $21.8M guaranteed.  

The price might seem high, but salaries at Higgins’ position are on the rise in a major way. Eight wideouts make more than the franchise tag amount on average, with Miami Dolphins star Tyreek Hill leading the way at $30M a season. 

While locking up Higgins for at least 2024 is good news for both parties, the pressure is now on for the 25-year-old. 

Selected by the Bengals 33rd overall in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft out of Clemson, Higgins immediately impacted the team’s offense over his first three seasons in the league. However, in 2023, he had arguably his worst season, recording 42 catches for 656 yards and five touchdowns, all career lows. 

It’s hard to know how much Higgins’ contract situation and losing Joe Burrow after Week 10 to a season-ending wrist injury impacted his numbers. Though heading into what amounts to another contract year, he’ll have to improve on last year’s numbers to receive the kind of payday he’s seeking now. 

After failing to come to terms on a contract extension last offseason, Higgins and the Bengals seemingly reached a similar impasse this time around. Reports indicate that the two sides will continue negotiating in hopes of reaching an agreement on a long-term deal, but the odds favor Higgins playing the year out on the franchise tag. 

After the Bengals broke the seal, the NFL might see an influx of tagged players. This offseason features several big-name candidates, including Carolina Panthers DE Brian Burns, New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley and Tampa Bay Buccaneers safety Antoine Winfield Sr..