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Bengals Place Fifth-Year Option on Ja’Marr Chase

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Bengals WR Chase Rookie Steelers

The Cincinnati Bengals announced on Wednesday that they’ll exercise the fifth-year option on Pro Bowl wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase. The team’s 2021 first-round draft choice now is signed through the 2025 season.

Chase will make $21.86 million in 2025 if he plays under the fifth-year option, but a massive long-term deal is likely to be reached before then. Chase’s former LSU teammate Justin Jefferson of the Minnesota Vikings is reportedly set to exceed $30 million annually on his next contract, which would make him the highest-paid wideout in NFL history. Chase certainly will use Jefferson’s upcoming contract as leverage prior to the 2025 season.

In 45 regular-season games, Chase has caught 268 passes for 3,717 yards (13.9 average) and 29 touchdowns. He was named the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year following the 2021 season, and has been selected to the Pro Bowl three times. He was named second-team All-Pro in 2022.

In 2023, Chase recorded a career-high 100 receptions, tying for the second most in a season in team history, for 1,216 yards and seven toucdowns. Chase broke out in his rookie season with 13 touchdowns and averaged 18.0 yards per reception. He is one of eight players in NFL history to reach the 1,000-yard receiving mark in each of his first three career seasons.

Chase’s teammate and fellow wide receiver Tee Higgins requested a trade out of Cincinnati after being franchise-tagged. It seems those negotiations are not going well between the two sides.

Adam Schefter reported that Higgins had hoped to be able to work out a long-term contract with Higgins after the team used the franchise tag on him before last week’s deadline, but Higgins and the Bengals have not had any talks on a contract extension since March of 2023. At this point, Higgins is ready to move on.

It’s unclear if the Bengals will be willing to acquiesce to that request. Cincinnati saved a ton of salary cap space to be able to afford to pay Higgins the franchise tag amount in 2024, as the team hopes to rebound after an injury-plagued 2023.

“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.”

Higgins can attempt to force a trade, or he can sit out the season by refusing to sign his franchise tender, so he does have some leverage.

The 6-foot-4, 219-pound wideout from Clemson has developed into a perfect complement for 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.

The franchise tag amount for wide receivers in 2024 will be $21.816 million. That contract will be fully guaranteed.