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Tee Higgins will likely be back in Cincinnati for the 2024 season. The Bengals are expected to franchise tag their star receiver ahead of free agency if the two sides are unable to agree on a long-term extension, according to The Athletic. The Bengals have until March 5 to tag Higgins, who, if tagged, would make $20.7 million for the upcoming season. 

According to the report, it seems like a forgone conclusion that Higgins will be tagged sooner rather than later. This would give the Bengals two viable options regarding Higgins moving forward. Tagging him early would give other teams the opportunity to submit tag-and-trade offers, but this would mean that the Bengals are willing to part with Higgins, which seems unlikely. The more likely scenario is the two sides continue to work toward getting a long-term deal done before the July 15 deadline, and if one isn't reached the wideout would get tagged. 

Historically, the Bengals have parted ways with players they've tagged a year after tagging them. That was the case with wideout A.J. Green in 2020 and safety Jessie Bates III in 2022. 

Will Higgins follow suit? It's hard to say, given that he hasn't even been tagged yet for the upcoming season. A lot can happen between now and the season, assuming that Higgins is tagged. It'll largely depend on how much the Bengals want to invest in both Higgins and Ja'Marr Chase, who is entering the final year of his rookie deal. 

Chase will have his fifth-year option picked up by the club this offseason, and will surely get his long-term deal next offseason. Given his production, Chase will receive a contract that will most likely make him one of the league's highest-paid wideouts. The Bengals already employ the NFL's highest-paid player in quarterback Joe Burrow, who got his deal done before the start of this past season. 

Given the receiver market, $20 million is likely the floor for Higgins to make on an annual basis. Assuming Chase receives a deal that pays him at least $25 million a season, that would mean that the Bengals are spending at least $45 million annually on two receivers should they also choose to re-sign Higgins. That would represent roughly 19 percent of the team's salary cap assuming the cap is at least $240 million in 2025 (it should be higher). 

The Bengals have the money to get both deals done. Again, it just comes down to how much they want to invest in two receivers. Beyond the fact that both Higgins and Chase are worth the money, what may compel the Bengals to give both players long-term deals is the fact that the team's Super Bowl window is right now. 

Cincinnati, after all, is the reason why the Chiefs have been to the Super Bowl four out of the last five years and not each of the last five. A big reason for the Bengals' success over the last several years has been the play of Burrow and his top-two receivers. Super Bowl LVI was no exception. Chase had five grabs for 89 yards that included the game's longest play: a 46-yard grab that set up the Bengals' first touchdown. Higgins led both teams with 100 receiving yards and a pair of touchdown passes from Burrow. 

Higgins followed his big Super Bowl up with a second straight 1,000-yard receiving season in 2022. And while injuries hindered his availability this past year, Higgins showed that he is still a top-tier wideout when healthy. He had two touchdown grabs in Cincinnati's Week 14 win over Minnesota and had a season-high 140 yards and a score in the following week's loss to Pittsburgh. 

Tee Higgins
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It appears that the Bengals want to keep Higgins in Cincinnati for an extended period of time. But in the meantime, it appears that they are content with the tag now while giving them more time to negotiate a long-term deal. 

"I want Tee Higgins back," Bengals GM Duke Tobin recently said, per the Bengals' official website. "Everyone on our team would like Tee Higgins back. There's a pie and there are things we can do and can't do because of it. We'll see."