Proposed Bengals Trade Exchanges Tee Higgins for Cardinals Pick

Tee Higgins

Getty Tee Higgins could get traded during the draft.

The Cincinnati Bengals could trade and replace wide receiver Tee Higgins in the same draft and possibly the same move, too.

ESPN’s Bill Barnwell suggested as such in his annual mock draft where the teams trade each first-round pick. Barnwell has the Bengals trading Higgins to the Arizona Cardinals for the No. 27 pick, which could lead to Higgins’ replacement or another need. The Bengals also pick at No. 18 in  the first round.

Higgins asked for a trade this offseason, and the Bengals gave him a $21.81 million franchise tag in the meantime. He could command a richer long-term deal such as four years, $74.4 million, based on Spotrac’s market value.

“They’ve already paid Joe Burrow, and a massive extension for Ja’Marr Chase is soon to follow as early as this offseason,” Barnwell wrote about the Bengals’ situation with Higgins. “Would they really prefer to budget a DeVonta Smith-sized extension for Higgins, or is that money better used elsewhere? If they’re going to move on, it’s better to do it now and land a first-round pick in a deep class for wide receivers than wait a year and net a third-round compensatory pick in 2026.”

Tee Higgins Won’t Match 2 Other Top Receivers in Trade Compensation

Last season, Higgins had 42 catches for 656 yards and five touchdowns in 16 games played. Higgins previously had back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons in 2021 and 2022 and 13 touchdowns between those years — but that might not be enough to offset his 2023 season in terms of trade compensation.

“Higgins wouldn’t draw the same sort of return as [Brandon] Aiyuk or Justin Jefferson for a number of reasons. He’s already on the franchise tag, which leaves the Bengals star one more tag away from hitting unrestricted free agency,” Barnwell wrote. “Aiyuk and Jefferson are both on their fifth-year option, which leaves them another year further away from the open market. Higgins is coming off a lost, injury-hit season, and while Jefferson also missed time last season, his peak has been significantly more productive than Higgins’.”

To Barnwell’s point, Jefferson and Aiyuk both produced 1,000-yard seasons in 2023 plus 20-plus more receptions apiece. Jefferson has four-consecutive 1,000-yard seasons to start his career, and Aiyuk has increased yardage every year of his career.

2 Receivers the Bengals Could Pick in the First Round

Cincinnati could get lucky and see LSU’s Brian Thomas Jr. fall to No. 18. Thomas is the fourth-rated wide receiver in the draft by Pro Football Focus.

“Thomas offers a good combination of size and speed to push the ball vertically down the sideline, demanding safeties stay rotated to his side,” PFF’s Trevor Sikkema wrote. “To truly unlock that kind of threat, he will need to show he can consistently beat press coverage. Offenses that like to push the ball will prioritize what he brings to the table in the top 50.”

If not Thomas, the Bengals could take Texas’ Adonai Mitchell at No. 27. PFF ranks Mitchell fifth among all receivers in the draft.

“Mitchell’s fluidity at his size makes him a tough matchup, especially in the red zone. The biggest area of concern I have with him is that I wish he attacked the ball more when it was in the air. If he improves in that category, he has fringe WR1/WR2 abilities,” Sikkema wrote.

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