Can the Bengals hold past Tee Higgins in 2023? – Cincinnati Bengals Blog


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Mandatory Credit: Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

CINCINNATI — For the past two years, the Cincinnati Bengals have had the luxury of having two of the NFL’s best young wide receivers.

Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins produced big plays when Cincinnati needed them. In seven playoff games over the past two seasons, the duo has combined for 1,045 yards and six touchdowns.

The NFL’s economic structure is designed to prevent teams from recruiting multiple top players. Getting new contracts below the salary cap for Chase, Higgins and Joe Burrow is the biggest challenge. But the Bengals want to find a way to keep Higgins as part of that offensive core at least into 2023, if not beyond.

“I envision him being a part of what we do going forward for a long time,” Bengals director of player staff Duke Tobin said at this year’s NFL Scouting Combine. “That’s the hope. We want our guys, especially our guys coming in, to prove that they can help us win in a big way.”

Higgins fits into this category. The 33rd overall pick in the 2020 draft has played two consecutive 1,000-yard seasons and made key performances in big games. In the 2022 Super Bowl LVI loss, Higgins had four catches for 100 yards and two touchdowns. Higgins also impressed in January’s AFC Championship game against the Kansas City Chiefs, with six catches for 83 yards and a touchdown in the 23-20 loss.

But of the Bengals’ top three young attacking players, Higgins is the most expendable. Burrow has proven invaluable since his call-up in 2020 and has had a season that made him an MVP finalist. Chase, Burrows’ college teammate at LSU, made the Pro Bowl in his first two seasons.

But the reaction to trade speculation with Higgins underscored how Cincinnati policymakers view the former Clemson. Bengals coach Zac Taylor, the team’s offensive playcaller, gushed about having Higgins as an asset.

“So when you see the rumors that are flying around out there, it’s nonsense,” Taylor said. “Because at the end of the day I get to name the pieces. It’s fun to have guns out there and you really don’t want to give them away.”

Having multiple quality receivers has been essential to Cincinnati’s offensive success since Taylor took over.

When the Bengals signed Taylor in 2019, he established an offense operating primarily with “11 staff” — a running back, a tight end and three wide receivers. Since Taylor’s arrival, the Bengals have used this package on a league-high 77.5% of their offensive games, according to NFL Next Gen Stats. Running this offense effectively means having the necessary players. Also, veteran Tyler Boyd, who has received more than 5,300 yards in seven seasons with the team, is entering the final year of his current contract.

The Bengals have not been afraid to pay for positions they value. For example, Cincinnati has pledged nearly $60 million to Cap Space for its line of defense in 2023.

But keeping Higgins, Chase and Burrow could mean reallocating that money to his temporary offense. The Los Angeles Chargers are the only team to have two wide receivers with contracts averaging more than $20 million a year. When asked about the difficulty of getting multiple receivers high-end contracts, Tobin said he didn’t think too much about it and was focused on the short term.

“We’re looking at a lot of different things,” Tobin said. “We also look at what he does for [us] as a football team and he has a contract next year. We’ll maybe talk to him over the course of the off-season to see if there’s anything we can agree on or not. He’s an option for that.”

Higgins is currently a financial steal. He will add nearly $4 million toward the 2023 salary cap. Cincinnati currently values ​​that combination of salary and on-field production more than any draft capital, which Higgins trades for a cheaper option.

“Tea is a big part of what we do,” Tobin said. “He’s a great fit for our quarterback, he’s a great piece of what we’ve developed on offense and we don’t want to start over now.”

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