Tee Higgins wants to stay with the Bengals

Receiver Tee Higgins isn’t under contract with the Bengals. The team has squatted on his rights with the franchise tag. Higgins wants a long-term deal. He has reportedly asked to be traded.

He also has said wants to stay with the Bengals. Appearing on the I Am Athlete podcast (via James Rapien of SI.com), Higgins made it clear that he would like to keep playing for the Bengals.

“As far as coming back, I would love to come back,” Higgins said. “I grew as a man in the past four years here. Grew as a player, made — got good new friendships. Great relationships with people not in the facility, in the City of Cincinnati, the fans are great. So I would definitely love to be here. But if that’s not the situation, then that’s not the situation.”

The episode was posted on Wednesday. It’s unclear when it was recorded. (He refers to, for example, turning in his iPad to the Bengals. That would have happened, presumably, at the end of the 2023 season.)

The Bengals have a long history of not signing franchise-tagged players to long-term deals. Typically, the player plays under the tag for a year, and then the tag isn’t applied a second time.

Higgins can skip the offseason program, training camp, and the entire preseason with no consequence. He can show up literally days before the start of the regular season and collect the full amount of his $21.8 million franchise tender.

The only risk is that the Bengals could rescind it. Then, Higgins would become a free agent, long after the big money has been paid out and depth charts have been set. That rarely happens, but it’s not impossible.

Some would say Higgins should show up and get ready to have a big season in what will be a contract year. Others would say he doesn’t really need to do that. That he’s done enough in four seasons to qualify for a significant contract, if he becomes a free agent in March 2025.

Regardless, the Bengals aren’t likely to give Higgins a long-term deal. He’ll need to decide at some point whether to show up and collect his $21.8 million, if the Bengals don’t give him an acceptable long-term contract before the July 15 deadline for doing so.

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