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Bengals Expected to Use Franchise Tag on Tee Higgins



Bengals Steelers WR Tee Higgins
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins makes a catch over Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback James Pierre on Nov. 28, 2021. -- Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

The Cincinnati Bengals are expected to use their franchise tag on wide receiver Tee Higgins, according to a report by Paul Dehner Jr. of The Athletic.

Higgins, 25, is set to become a free agent for the first time in his NFL career. The 6-foot-4, 219-pound wideout from Clemson has developed into a perfect complement for Ja’Marr Chase in the four years since the Bengals drafted him in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft.

Higgins has averaged 14.3 yards per reception in his NFL career and has caught at least five touchdowns in each of his four seasons, showcasing his big-play ability. He posted consecutive 1,000-yard seasons in 2021 and 2022 before an injury limited him to 11 games in 2023, and the injury to quarterback Joe Burrow hindered the Cincinnati passing attack.

Pittsburgh Steelers Cincinnati Bengals WR Tee Higgins

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins is tackled by Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Levi Wallace during a game on Dec. 23, 2023. — Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

The franchise tag amount for a wide receiver in 2024 is currently projected by OvertheCap to be $21.665 million. That contract would be fully guaranteed if the Bengals tag Higgins. There is also a chance that they could tag him and then negotiate a contract extension before he signs the tag.

The Bengals have done a nice job making sure they have room for Higgins. Cincinnati currently has over $59 million in cap space, the fourth-most of any team, so they can easily afford to tag Higgins.

It may make it tougher to sign other free agents, like defensive tackle D.J. Reader, slot receiver Tyler Boyd, tight end Irv Smith, cornerback Chidobe Awuzie and right tackle Jonah Williams.

“I want Tee Higgins back,” general manager Duke Tobin said to reporters at the Senior Bowl. “Everyone on our team would like to have Tee Higgins back. Again, there’s one pie and how big of a slice that takes and what else we can’t do because of it, we’ll have to determine and we’ll see.”

The Bengals have Chase under contract for one more season, and will almost certainly pick up his fifth-year option for 2025 this offseason before they have to deal with a contract extension for their other star receiver.