Bengals Could Trade Disgruntled WR to Chargers

Tee Higgins

Getty Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins.

The offseason for the Cincinnati Bengals has been anything but smooth.

It was a continuation of a tumultuous 2023 regular season in which franchise quarterback Joe Burrow suffered a season-ending wrist surgery and the Bengals missed the playoffs after back-to-back seasons making it to the AFC Championship Game.

After that, there were the trade requests.

One from NFL All-Pro defensive end Trey Hendrickson and, most notably, multiple trade requests from veteran wide receiver Tee Higgins after he received the franchise tag for the 2024 season.

ESPN’s Matt Bowen included Higgins in his list of best NFL teams fits for remaining free agents and trade candidates on May 20, listing an AFC foe, the Los Angeles Chargers, as the best possible trade destination for Higgins.

“With a pass game that will be heavily schemed and include play-action elements under new coach Jim Harbaugh, the Chargers could create both isolation matchups and open voids for Higgins to produce,” Bowen wrote. “He has 24 career TDs over four seasons, and he totaled 656 yards last year after breaking 1,000 in back-to-back seasons.”

Higgins Coming Off Career-Worst Season in ’23

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.

In April, The Cincinnati Enquirer reported that 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 would make $21.8 million playing under the franchise tag in 2024.

The Bengals, for their part, fully expect Higgins to be on the field for them this season.

“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 in March. “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.”

Chargers in Desperate Need of WR1

It’s hard to imagine a better landing spot for Higgins than with the Chargers, where he could immediately step in and be WR1 — something that’s not possible in Cincinnati with NFL All-Pro Ja’Marr Chase there.

The Chargers have an elite, young quarterback in Justin Herbert, who the franchise signed to a 5-year, $262.5 million contract extension in July 2023. What they don’t have is a star wide receiver.

The Chargers spent a first-round pick on the wide receiver position in 2023 and the results there haven’t been encouraging — No. 21 overall pick Quentin Johnston only had 38 receptions for 431 receiving yards and 2 touchdowns as a rookie.

The Chargers and first-year head coach Jim Harbaugh went back to the well in the 2024 NFL draft, selecting Georgia wide receiver Ladd McConkey in the second round (No. 34 overall).

“The Chargers drafted rookie receiver Ladd McConkey, who has the route traits to live in the middle of the field, and added veteran DJ Chark Jr.,” Bowen wrote. “And if Higgins — who requested a trade this offseason — does get moved before the start of the 2024 season, he would immediately upgrade the Chargers’ offense as a three-level target for quarterback Justin Herbert.”

Read More