Bengals designate wide receiver Tee Higgins as franchise-tagged player

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins totaled 656 yards and five scores on 42 catches in 2023. File Photo by John Sommers II/UPI
1 of 5 | Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins totaled 656 yards and five scores on 42 catches in 2023. File Photo by John Sommers II/UPI | License Photo

Feb. 26 (UPI) -- The Cincinnati Bengals officially designated Tee Higgins as their franchise tag player on Monday, keeping the wide receiver under contractual control for at least one more season.

The move also allows the Bengals to continue negotiations for a long-term deal for the playmaker, who was set to hit free agency this off-season.


Higgins and the Bengals can continue negotiations until July 15. If they fail to reach an agreement, Higgins could play under the 1-year, $21.8-million terms of the franchise tag for wide receivers in 2024.

NFL teams can apply the franchise tag or transition tag to players until March 5.

"Tee has done an outstanding job for us since we drafted him in 2020," Bengals coach Zac Taylor said in a news release. "I'm glad that he'll continue to be a big part of our offense and our team."


Higgins, 25, joined the Bengals in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft. The 6-foot-4, 219-pound pass catcher totaled 257 catches for 3,684 yards and 24 scores through his first four seasons. Higgins totaled a career-low 42 catches for 656 yards and five scores in 12 games last season while limited by injury.

The news of the decision to franchise tag Higgins came almost exactly one year after Bengals director of player personnel told UPI at the NFL scouting combine that he had no interest in trading Higgins.

A new deal for Higgins -- paired with quarterback Joe Burrow's $275 million signing in 2023 -- and a contract for fellow wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase could require some creativity from Tobin and the Bengals' front office if they want to retain other key players and stay within the confines of the salary cap.

The NFL announced last week that the salary cap for each team will be $255.4 million in 2024, $30 million more than it was in 2023.

Chase, who joined the Bengals as the No. 5 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, is entering the final year of his rookie contract, but has a fifth-year option for 2025. Chase could make $21.8 million that season under the terms of the option.


The Bengals wide receiver told reporters in January that he thought about a potential future without Higgins as his teammate. He also joked about how the Bengals could fit each of their salaries and remain under the cap.

"It depends how much I'm taking," Chase said. "It depends at the end of the day. Because I might not really be taking a cut. it might come from somewhere else."

Burrow also spoke in January about his desire for Higgins to remain with the Bengals.

"I know Tee wants to be here," Burrow told reporters. "Tee knows we want him here. There's not much to say in that aspect. Everybody's expectation is Tee is going to be back."

The 2024 NFL scouting combine will be held from Tuesday through March 4 in Indianapolis. The first day of the 2024 league year will be March 13, which also marks the start of the free-agency signing period.

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