The Bengals have several options to keep wide receiver Tee Higgins from becoming a free agent when the new league year starts in March. They can sign him to a long-term deal or use a franchise tag to keep him from hitting the open market. If they decide to use the franchise tag, it would extend the time to negotiate a new deal until mid-July. This gives Higgins the ability to choose whether to sit out or play the 2024 season with a guaranteed salary that is projected to be $20.7 million if no deal is reached.
According to Paul Dehner of TheAthletic.com, the team is expected to use the franchise tag on Higgins. He notes that the team has the cap space to carry that salary in the 2024 season and that Joe Burrow’s cap number remains relatively low in 2024 before jumping up by nearly $20 million in 2025. Additionally, Dehner points out that other receivers like Justin Jefferson, CeeDee Lamb, Brandon Aiyuk, Michael Pittman Jr., and fellow Bengal Ja’Marr Chase are closing in on new deals, making it advantageous for Higgins to wait on signing a multi-year deal.
The overall makeup of the wide receiver market might make it beneficial for Higgins to wait on signing a long-term deal until there is more clarity about how much other receivers will earn in their respective contracts. By waiting until then, he could potentially secure a better deal than what he might get now if he signs quickly without much information about what other players are getting paid.
Any franchise tags must be issued by March 5th, so we should know soon whether or not the Bengals will exercise this option and what their plans are for Higgins’ future with the team.