Tee Higgins trade rumors: Bengals’ Duke Tobin won’t rule out dealing star WR on franchise tag

A year ago, Duke Tobin and the Bengals had no interest in helping other teams by trading Tee Higgins. Now, they might at least pick up the phone.

Tobin, the Bengals director of player personnel and de facto general manager, was asked at the NFL combine for the second straight year about the possibility of trading Higgins. Higgins was in the last year of his rookie contract in 2023, and he was franchise tagged in ’24.

See what Tobin had to say about Cincinnati’s star wide receiver below.

MORE: Latest news, updates on 2024 NFL franchise tags

Will the Bengals trade Tee Higgins?

Unlike last year, Tobin did not completely quash the possibility of a trade.

“The reason we franchised [Higgins] is because we would like to have him,” Tobin said. “He’s not under contract, and it’s hard for me to predict all the different scenarios that could happen. But we feel strongly about Tee Higgins and his fit with us.”

Though it’s far from a committal statement on leaving the door open for a trade, Tobin’s comment was even further from what he said in 2023. There were similar trade rumors floating around then about whether Cincinnati might deal Higgins with a Joe Burrow extension likely looming and a Ja’Marr Chase contract likely not far beyond that.

“I’m not in the business of making other teams better. I’m in the business of making the Cincinnati Bengals better, and so trading Tee Higgins is not on my mind. That’s their problem. They want a receiver, go find your own,” Tobin said at the 2023 NFL Combine. “In my opinion, Tee Higgins is a good piece for the Cincinnati Bengals. So, the trade stuff is a little ridiculous right now.”

That was then, and this is now. Then, Cincinnati still had him under contract with the possibility of placing the franchise tag on him. Now, Higgins would have to agree to sign the tag or agree to an extension before July 15. He could threaten to hold out in 2024, and until he signs the tag, he, in essence, has a no-trade clause, as he could simply refuse to sign if he is traded to certain teams.

Higgins will be free to negotiate contracts with other teams and could agree to a term sheet, though the Bengals could simply match the terms and he would be obligated to return to Cincinnati on that deal. Because of that, teams don’t often offer players on the franchise tag, as it means that team would do all the negotiating for the player’s current team.

MORE: NFL salary cap cuts 2024 tracker

Higgins has been speculated as a tag-and-trade candidate due to the likelihood of Cincinnati offering a larger extension to Chase.

However, Cincinnati has shown a willingness in the past to allow players to play out a year on the tag and leave in free agency for little more than a comp pick. The Bengals franchise tagged safety Jessie Bates, who is represented by Higgins’ agent, David Mulugheta, for the 2022 season. Bates eventually signed the tag, played out the 2022 campaign, then signed a four-year, $64-million deal with the Falcons.

Tee Higgins franchise tag value

Higgins playing on the franchise tag in 2024 would mean a salary of $21.816 million. 

According to Spotrac, that is currently slated to make Higgins the highest-paid wide receiver in 2024 by salary and third in total cash.

“It’s really simple: he’s a good player. We want to keep him, and we have resources to do that, so we decided early to do it, and that’s where we are,” Tobin said. “We like Tee. We’re a better team with Tee. With the way that we’ve managed our cap, we had the ability to put the franchise tag on him, and we did.”

Tee Higgins stats

Higgins, who was drafted 33rd overall in 2020 and was Cincinnati’s second pick after drafting Burrow, has had a standout start to his NFL career. Though he has battled injuries at times, he has played in at least 12 games every season, including every game in both ’20 and ’22.

The 2023 season was Higgins’ worst statistically, as he was held to fewer than 900 receiving yards in a season for the first time in his career, though he also only played in 12 games, the fewest of his career.

Year Age G Tgt Rec Rec Yds Rec TDs
2020 21 16 108 67 908 6
2021 22 14 110 74 1,091 6
2022 23 16 109 74 1,029 7
2023 24 12 76 42 656 5

Source

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *