The Cincinnati Bengals have been spoiled with a wealth of wide receiver talent over the past few years.
While Ja'Marr Chase is the unquestioned top wideout, Tee Higgins has become arguably the best No. 2 receiver in the league. Since being selected in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft, the 25-year-old receiver has compiled 257 catches for 3,684 yards and 24 touchdowns.
His time in Cincinnati may be over, however, as the star wide receiver is set to be an unrestricted free agent this offseason.
Bengals WR Tee Higgins says playing for Tennessee Titans "would be ideal"
At Super Bowl LVIII Radio Row in Las Vegas, Higgins discussed how much he hated to see his former offensive coordinator Brian Callahan leave Cincinnati. Callahan accepted a job as head coach of the Tennessee Titans last month.
"He helped me a lot," Higgins said of Callahan. "He helped me grow as a player since my rookie year. He's a great coach, man, probably one of the best in the league. ... I was able to pick his brain a little bit, and learn new things about the game that I didn't know. He's just a great offensive mind."
Higgins, who grew up in Tennessee, was also asked how he would feel about following Callahan to Tennessee in free agency this offseason.
"It would be good," Higgins said. "Going back home to family and being able to play for a coach I've already been under, it would be ideal."
Allowing Higgins to leave without receiving any compensation wouldn't make any sense for Cincinnati. The franchise has a few options to ensure Higgins never hits the open market this offseason. They can extend the wide receiver with a long-term contract extension, although prior reports have indicated that the two sides have never been close on terms.
Cincinnati also has the opportunity to use the exclusive franchise tag designation on Higgins for roughly $21.7 million. They could then trade Higgins in exchange for suitable compensation, take time to negotiate a long-term extension or allow him to walk after playing out the season on the one-year tag.
The Bengals are projected to have the fourth-most available cap space heading into the 2024 NFL offseason, but they have other contractual obligations to keep in mind. For example, star wideout Ja'Marr Chase is eligible for a contract extension this offseason, and the Bengals will have to pay him by next year. Keeping both Chase and Higgins would cost Cincinnati over $50 million per season — a significant amount that would undoubtedly erode talent at other positions on the roster.
"We’ll see what happens this year," Bengals general manager Duke Tobin said in January. "I want Tee Higgins back. Everyone on our team would like to have Tee Higgins back. Again, there’s one pie and how big of a slice that takes and what else we can’t do because of it, we’ll have to determine and we’ll see."