Bengals Wide Receiver Hasn’t Signed Franchise Tender: Report

Tee Higgins and Justin Jefferson

Getty Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins and Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson.

The Cincinnati Bengals could be without one of their key players for the immediate future.

According to a report from ESPN’s Adam Schefter posted on X on May 20, Cincinnati wide receiver Tee Higgins won’t be back with the team for OTAs due to a contract dispute.

“Bengals WR Tee Higgins still has not signed his franchise tender and is not expected to by next week, per source,” Schefter wrote. “This would make him ineligible to report back to the Bengals in time for their organized team activities next week. Higgins cannot rejoin the team until he signs.”

The Bengals placed the franchise tag on Higgins on Feb. 26, which would pay him approximately $21.8 million in 2024. Higgins has asked for a trade multiple times after the Bengals refused to meet his demands for a contract extension.

Higgins Reportedly Seeking $70 Million Contract

According to The Cincinnati Enquirer, Higgins was looking for a 3-year, $70 million contract extension similar to the 3-year, $71.5 million contract extension signed by Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Michael Pittman in February 2024.

Pittman’s contract came with $46 million in guaranteed money.

Higgins was a second-round pick by the Bengals in 2020 (No. 33 overall) out of Clemson and signed a 4-year, $8.68 million rookie contract. He had over 900 receiving yards as a rookie followed by back-to-back seasons over 1,000 receiving yards in 2021 and 2022.

In a loss to the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LVI, Higgins had four receptions for 100 yards and 2 touchdowns.

In 2023, Higgins’ production dropped off dramatically with career lows in receptions (42) receiving yards (656) and touchdowns (5). He also missed a career-high six games with rib and hamstring injuries.

Pittman had 109 receptions for 1,152 receiving yards and 4 touchdowns in 2023 leading up to his contract extension.

The Bengals may already be planning for a future without Higgins — they selected Alabama wide receiver Jermaine Burton in the third round of the 2024 NFL draft.

Bengals’ Offseason Defined by Trade Demands

Higgins wasn’t the only one on Cincinnati’s roster who sought a trade in the offseason.

NFL All-Pro defensive end Trey Hendrickson requested a trade on April 24 after not receiving a contract extension and missed the first three weeks of voluntary workouts but returned to the team on May 14.

Hendrickson is coming off a career year in which he set a Bengals single-season record with 17.5 sacks and was named first-team NFL All-Pro He also earned his third consecutive Pro Bowl selection.

Hendrickson signed a 4-year, $60 million contract with the Bengals in March 2021 and received a 1-year, $21 million contract extension in March 2023. He has 39.5 sacks over the last three seasons.

Higgins was a two-time All-ACC selection and College Football Playoff national champion at Clemson but has yet to make a Pro Bowl or an NFL All-Pro Team through his first four seasons in the NFL.

“We’re excited for Tee to have a great year for us,” Cincinnati head coach Zac Taylor said to Pro Football Network’s Jay Morrison on March 245. “We think he’s our best chance to help us win a Super Bowl. I’ve enjoyed working with Tee the last four years and expect this year to be no different.”

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