NFL Rumors: Tee Higgins, Bengals Won’t Talk Contract During Season After ‘Low’ Offer

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerTwitter LogoFeatured Columnist IVSeptember 11, 2023

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins (5) runs during practice at the team's NFL football training facility, Tuesday, June 13, 2023, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Jeff Dean)

AP Photo/Jeff Dean

Wide receiver Tee Higgins doesn’t intend to negotiate a long-term extension with the Cincinnati Bengals in the middle of the 2023 NFL season, according to The Athletic’s Dianna Russini and Paul Dehner Jr.

Higgins is in the final year of his rookie contract and is due to hit free agency in 2024.

Russini and Dehner reported the Bengals extended an offer to the fourth-year wideout, but it was considered “low” by the player.

Thanks to ownership, the Bengals have a longstanding reputation for being cheap. However, failing to retain Higgins would be a bigger reflection of the difficulty of working within the NFL’s salary cap.

The Bengals did everything right when they selected Higgins and Joe Burrow in the 2020 draft and followed up with Ja’Marr Chase the following year. The downside is that keeping all three will be very costly.

Burrow is fresh off receiving the biggest contract in NFL history (five years and $275 million with $219 guaranteed). The front office now has to decide whether it can keep both Higgins and Chase while having enough flexibility to maintain a roster good enough to keep chasing an AFC title.

Spotrac pegs Higgins’ market value at $22.6 million annually, with Chase coming in at $24.9 million. Those salaries would rank ninth and fifth among receivers, respectively. For added context, the Seattle Seahawks have the third-highest AAV at wideout, and their combined spending ($46.6 million) is less than Higgins and Chase’s market values put together.

The Kansas City Chiefs faced a similar dilemma to the Bengals, and they decided giving Tyreek Hill a market-level extension simply wasn’t worth it. The Tennessee Titans reached the same conclusion with A.J. Brown. Kansas City wound up winning last year’s Super Bowl, while Tennessee watched Brown play a key role for the NFC champion Philadelphia Eagles.

On that spectrum, the Bengals might be closer to the Chiefs. Because without Higgins, they could still lean on Burrow and Chase to anchor the passing game.

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