The Green Bay Packers failed to land a difference-making wide receiver ahead of the NFL trade deadline but absent an explicit time limit, this offseason could be another story.
Green Bay’s chances of accomplishing this will improve with every new wideout’s name that is thrust into trade conversations, the most recent of which was that of Cincinnati Bengals pass catcher Tee Higgins.
Paul Dehner Jr. of The Athletic wrote on February 1 that Higgins is potentially primed to become the next big-name, big-talent receiver to work his way into trade candidacy ahead of his second professional contract.
“Higgins is not a free agent … but conversations need to be had about a long-term contract,” Dehner posited. “If the numbers are outrageous and it’s clear the two sides won’t see eye-to-eye, the Bengals could go the route taken by multiple teams in recent seasons and deal the receiver for a top draft pick and start the cycle over with a rookie receiver.”
Packers Could Create Top NFL Receiver Duo With Higgins, Watson
If Higgins does become available, it would be tantamount to football malpractice for the Packers not to take a swing at locking him down.
The first domino that needs to fall is the future of quarterback Aaron Rodgers, but whether it is Rodgers or his long and silent-suffering understudy Jordan Love under center in 2023 doesn’t really matter. The opportunity to pair a talent like Higgins with the dynamic Christian Watson long-term represents a realistic chance of immediately creating a top-five NFL receiver duo, like the one Cincinnati currently has in Higgins and No. 1 target Ja’Marr Chase.
Justis Mosqueda of SB Nation’s ACME Packing Co. wrote on Friday, February 3, that if there’s any chance for the Packers to deal for Higgins, the team needs to pick up the phone.
The Packers have been desperate at receiver since [Davante] Adams was traded. Should a receiver like Higgins, a 24-year-old with 3,028 career yards under his belt, become available then the team needs to think about making a call.
With few (if any) quality receiver options available in the 2023 free agency class, Green Bay’s only chance to get better there this offseason will be through a trade and/or the draft.
Higgins Has Played Himself Into Trade Leverage, Packers’ Target
Higgins, the former second-round draft pick out of Clemson University, is entering the fourth and final year of his rookie contract in 2023. For most players that would mean playing out the final year of the deal and waiting for a free agency pay day on the other side.
Higgins’ situation may prove different, however, as he appears to have earned status as part of a small group of receivers drafted in the second-round who have been able to leverage their talent into long-term extensions ahead of year four, either with the team that selected them or with a trade partner.
Dehner noted that just last year, A.J. Brown netted the Tennessee Titans the 18th overall pick in the first round along with the 101st overall selection from the Philadelphia Eagles. Brown and Higgins were both second-round selections and put up similar counting statistics across their first three seasons (Brown’s stats, Higgins’ stats, per Pro Football Reference).
Considering that value assessment, a fair deal between Green Bay and Cincinnati for Higgins would fall in the neighborhood of the Packers’ first-round and fourth-round picks in 2023, slotting in at No. 15 and No. 113 overall, respectively.
Otherwise, the Bengals can pay to keep Higgins around long-term, though they’d likely be looking at a number similar to the three-year, $71.5 million deal the San Francisco 49ers were strong-armed into paying Deebo Samuel last summer. Samuel was also a second-round draft pick who requested a trade out of the Bay Area after his third season, before ultimately leveraging a new deal with the franchise.
The Bengals may well strike a contract extension with Higgins, though the team has to worry about coming deals for both Chase and quarterback Joe Burrow, each of whom is likely to set the market at his position — or at least come close.
The financial realities in Cincinnati make it prudent that the team consider dealing Higgins for future value, while realities in Green Bay make it prudent that the team pursue a chance to trade for Higgins like the rare opportunity that it would be.