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Contract Talks Stall Between Star Wideout, AFC Contender

Star wide receiver Tee Higgins and the Cincinnati Bengals are reportedly nowhere close in contract talks, implying he will leave in 2025.
Tee Higgins Contract

One way or another, Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins will receive a massive contract extension in the next 12 months. There’s just a strong chance it won’t come from the Bengals themselves. The wide receiver is one of the better perimeter threats in the league, as he already has two 1,000-yard seasons to his name through the first four years of his career.

Despite his high level of play, the Bengals and Tee Higgins are unlikely to agree to a contract extension. Higgins is currently playing on the franchise tag and, despite requesting a trade, seems to have resigned himself to the fact that he will be a Bengal in 2024. 2025, however, is a completely different story. Higgins will hit the open market if both sides don’t agree to a long-term deal, and that doesn’t seem particularly likely.

According to Kelsey Conway of the Cincinnati Enquirer, the Bengals “never approached” a $20 million per year contract offer for Tee Higgins. Conway goes on to add that Cincinnati’s offer is so far off the mark that the sides never even discussed guaranteed money.

Bengals, Tee Higgins Not Close In Contract Talks

$20 million is a lot of cash, but that is the going contract rate for above-average receivers like Tee Higgins. According to OverTheCap, 18 receivers currently average $20 million or more per year, including Higgins himself, as the franchise tag gives him $21.8 million in fully guaranteed money.

While the Bengals have the cap space to hand out this type of deal in the short term, they probably won’t have the financial resources to sign Tee Higgins to a long-term contract. Joe Burrow’s cap hit is set to explode in the coming seasons, and Cincinnati must set some money aside for Ja’Marr Chase and his inevitable extension.

Barring something completely unexpected, this is the last time we’ll see Tee Higgins in a Bengals unfirm, as another team will give him a new contract. While it’s difficult to project more than a year out, these five teams make the most sense as potential destinations.

Possible Destinations

Carolina Panthers

The Panthers currently have Diontae Johnson, Adam Thielen, and Xavier Legette set to support Bryce Young. While this is a fine short-term trio, Johnson is a free agent at the end of 2024, Thielen is entering his age-34 season, and Legette is an unproven prospect who didn’t break out until his fifth year in college. Unless Legette hits the ground running, this team will probably still need a wide receiver at this point next year. Tee Higgins should be the best option available and Carolina will have the financial resources to hand out a massive contract.

New England Patriots

The Patriots have done a solid job of laying the foundation for their multi-year rebuild. The team landed their quarterback of the future in Drake Maye and re-signed core players like Michael Onwenu, Christian Barmore, and Kyle Dugger. Now armed with the most cap space in the league, the team can go nuts in free agency next year. While the Patriots selected Ja’Lynn Polk and Javon Baker, they will probably need a proven outside threat. Tee Higgins is a natural fit for Drake Maye’s style of play, and New England will have the money to hand out the largest contract.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Seeing as they play him twice a year, the Steelers should know exactly how to value Tee Higgins for his next contract. The Bengals would never trade Higgins to a division rival, but nothing’s stopping Pittsburgh from outbidding the competition in 2025. Assuming the Steelers don’t trade for a big-name player like Courtland Sutton or DK Metcalf, they should aggressively pursue Higgins on the open market.

Los Angeles Chargers

Ladd McConkey is a good prospect, but he can’t singlehandedly turn this depth chart into a reliable unit. The Chargers still have one of the worst collections of wide receivers in the game and they’ll need to sign someone like Tee Higgins to a massive contract next year. Assuming Quentin Johnston doesn’t make an unprecedented turnaround, Higgins will provide a much-needed presence on the outside and should pair wonderfully with Justin Herbert.

Baltimore Ravens

Much like the Steelers, the Ravens have firsthand knowledge of how dangerous Higgins can be. With Odell Beckham out of town and Devontez Walker the only notable offseason addition, Baltimore will probably consider handing out a massive contract to Tee Higgins. The Ravens could use a perimeter threat, and Higgins will probably be the best option on the market.

Main Photo: Kareem Elgazzar – USA Today Sports


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