The Green Bay Packers have a host of young wide receivers, but consistent health has proven an issue early in several of their careers.
With that in mind, combined with the fact that no team can ever have enough playmakers on the roster, Kristopher Knox of Bleacher Report named Cincinnati Bengals pass-catcher Tee Higgins among his top-10 most likely trade candidates entering Week 3 of the NFL season. He also dubbed the Packers as one of Higgins’ most likely potential landing spots.
Cincinnati has to at least ponder the possibility that this isn’t its year. If they’re looking ahead, the Bengals have a few contract issues to consider.
Joe Burrow is under contract long-term, but wide receivers Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins are both set to be 2024 free agents. No. 1 wideout Ja’Marr Chase, meanwhile, will be extension-eligible in 2024. Between Higgins and Boyd, Higgins is the more valuable trade commodity. He’s a high-end No. 2 receiver who could serve in the No. 1 role for a less-loaded offense.
The Bengals aren’t trading a talented receiver to Baltimore, but the Packers could be a possibility. Green Bay will have an extra 2024 second-rounder thanks to the Aaron Rodgers trade and could use a reliable pass-catcher to aid Jordan Love.
Tee Higgins Could Price Bengals Out, Making Trade to Packers Best Option
Cincinnati moving on from Higgins isn’t likely to happen anytime soon, as the Bengals have been in the AFC Championship Game in each of the last two seasons and are only 0-2 to start the year. However, Higgins’ contract is favorable for just one more season before Cincinnati must either apply the franchise tag to the wide receiver, which would result in a huge one-year deal that kicks the extension can down the road a season, or sign him to a massive extension.
Higgins, the No. 33 overall pick in the second round out of Clemson in 2020, is playing in the fourth and final year of his $8.7 million rookie contract. His market value is nearly $91 million over a four-year deal, per Spotrac. Higgins and his agent won’t be discussing an extension in-season, per a report from The Athletic’s Dianna Russini and Paul Dehner Jr. on September 11, which means the squeeze will be on as soon as the team’s season (or postseason) concludes.
The Bengals just made Burrow the highest-paid player in NFL history with a five-year contract worth $275 million. That kind of money on the books will hamstring the team to a degree going forward, and there is no question that Chase will either set the market for wide receivers — or earn a contract close to that — when he ultimately re-signs in Cincinnati.
Spotrac projects Chase’s value at $100 million over four years, though he is likely to do better than that considering his former LSU teammate Justin Jefferson is expected to sign for considerably more with the Minnesota Vikings at some point over the next 12 months. Higgins and Jefferson are each in their early 20s and considered the future of the position in the NFL.
The Kansas City Chiefs were forced to trade Tyreek Hill to the Miami Dolphins last offseason after his contract asks priced them out. Hill went on to earn the largest annual salary for a wideout in league history ($30 million per year) and helped the Dolphins become contenders. The Chiefs went on to win their second Super Bowl of the Patrick Mahomes era, this time without Hill in the lineup.
The point is this — at some point soon the Bengals will need to make some tough decisions. If lingering injury issues and roster turnover results in the team taking a step back ahead of the October 31 trade deadline, it might consider attempting to secure the kind of draft haul the Chiefs got in return for Hill then using those picks to create a young and talented offense built around the Chase-Burrow connection.
Christian Watson’s Injury History Troublesome for Packers Offense
Green Bay’s most explosive option and prime WR1 candidate is clearly Christian Watson. The issue, however, is whether the big-play threat can stay on the field.
Watson missed three games due to injury during his rookie campaign and has already sat out the first two contests of this year due to a hamstring injury. For those with a healthy distaste for math, that means the former second-round pick has missed five of a possible 19 regular season games — more than 25% of his team’s outings — early in his career.
When healthy, Watson has been spectacular. He gained nearly 700 yards from scrimmage and scored nine touchdowns as a rookie, and did all that while receiving just 66 targets and seven carries, per Pro Football Reference.
Romeo Doubs has been good when healthy, but the second-year wideout doesn’t have the skill set of someone like Higgins. Despite all the help the front office has added to the receiver room over the past two seasons, the Packers and Love can still desperately use a playmaker of Higgins’ caliber.
Through his first three NFL seasons, Higgins has amassed 215 catches for 3,028 yards and 19 touchdowns.