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Bengals WR Tee Higgins Requests Trade after Franchise Tag



Pittsburgh Steelers CB Levi Wallace Cincinnati Bengals WR Tee Higgins
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins braces for a tackle by Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Levi Wallace on Dec. 23, 2023. -- Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

Wide receiver Tee Higgins has requested a trade from the Cincinnati Bengals, according to a report by Adam Schefter of ESPN.

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 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.

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

The Bengals have done a nice job making sure they have room for Higgins. Cincinnati currently has over $72 million in cap space, the fifth-most of any team, so they can easily to pay Higgins the tag amount.

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.

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.