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Franchise-Tagged Star Could File Grievance With Bengals

The Cincinnati Bengals may have misused the franchise tag on Tee Higgins, leading to a potential grievance.
Tee Higgins Franchise Tag

Star wide receiver Tee Higgins was supposed to hit the open market, but the Bengals used the franchise tag to keep him from reaching free agency. This is not an uncommon development, as a handful of teams also used the tag to retain their top players. However, what sets Higgins apart from the crowd is the lack of long-term negotiations.

In theory, teams are supposed to use the franchise tag to try and extend their negotiation period with top players like Tee Higgins. This happened with quite literally every other player that received the tag, as Buccaneers safety Antoine Winfield Jr recently became the highest-paid safety in the league. Higgins, however, remains unsigned and Cincinnati has reportedly not raised their contract offer since 2023. This goes against the spirit of the franchise tag, and Higgins could file a grievance.

Tee Higgins Could File Grievance For Franchise Tag Misuse

As things currently stand, Tee Higgins will receive a fully guaranteed $21.8 million to play on the franchise tag in 2024. While this is a great sum of money, the tag prevents Higgins from having any long-term financial stability. The NFL unofficially stands for “Not For Long”, as the violent nature of the sport means that every single player is one bad snap away from losing their career. Seeing as a similar player in Michael Pittman received a three-year, $70 million contract, the tag could cost Higgins upwards of $50 million in the long term.

The Bengals are not required to extend Tee Higgins, but there should be some good-faith negotiations on both sides. Most reports indicate that this has not happened, which gives the wide receiver grounds to file for a grievance.

As mentioned in the tweet above, the Bengals will either trade Tee Higgins or have him play out the year on the franchise tag. If they decide to deal him, multiple teams should be interested in acquiring him after June 1st when more cap space frees up.

Possible Trade Destinations

Buffalo Bills

The Bills currently don’t have the money to trade for Tee Higgins while on the franchise tag. However, that will change after June 1st, as the Tre’Davious White savings will officially go into effect. After dealing Stefon Diggs to the Houston Texans, the Bills surrounded Josh Allen with a series of good-but-not-great players in Dalton Kincaid, Curtis Samuel, and Khalil Shakir. While an elite quarterback like Allen could make that work, they could use a target hog like Higgins as the top option in the passing attack.

Carolina Panthers

After giving Bryce Young nothing to work with as a rookie, the Carolina Panthers are doing their best to see what the former first-overall pick can do with a competent supporting cast. Diontae Johnson is a nice complement to Adam Thielen, and first-round pick Xavier Legette has a high ceiling. However, this team could use a proven star who can be the top option in this passing attack. Tee Higgins fits this description perfectly, and the Panthers have the cap space to take on his franchise tag and hand out an extension.

Los Angeles Chargers

The Chargers parted ways with Keenan Allen and Mike Williams because their bloated salaries didn’t match their age and injury concerns. Tee Higgins won’t be cheap on the franchise tag, but he’s entering the prime of his career and Los Angeles has the financial capacity to invest in a future building block for Justin Herbert.

New England Patriots

The Patriots have the most cap space in the league and can easily afford Tee Higgins on the franchise tag. New England revamped their offense with the selections of Drake Maye, Ja’Lynn Polk, and Javon Baker, but their work isn’t done. While those youngsters have potential, this team needs a proven commodity capable of making Maye’s life easier while also lowering the pressure on Polk and Baker.

Kansas City Chiefs

Rashee Rice won’t stop being an idiot and might not be in the long-term plans for the organization. Even though Tee Higgins remains on the franchise tag, it’s hard to envision a world where the Bengals trade one of their top playmakers to their biggest conference rival. With that disclaimer out of the way, the fit here is too perfect to ignore. Marquise Brown and Xavier Worthy bring elite speed to this offense, and Higgins can be the physical outside weapon to lead this team to their third Super Bowl in as many years.

Main Photo: Kareem Elgazzar – USA Today Sports


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