NFL Network national insider Ian Rapoport reported that the Cincinnati Bengals plan to use the franchise tag on wide receiver Tee Higgins for the 2024 season. If he signs the offer, he will receive a one-year, fully guaranteed contract worth $21.8 million.

The Bengals failed to secure a contract extension with Higgins after his four-year, $8.6 million rookie scale contract expired after the 2023 season. The former Clemson standout does not qualify for a fifth-year option because the Bengals selected him in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft.

The AFC North franchise afforded to tag Higgins after the NFL announced the 2024 salary cap at $255.4 million. That value is $30.6 million higher than the 2023 value of $224.8 million, the biggest increase cash-wise since free agency started. Exponential increases in league revenue due to new broadcast deals and partnerships with sportsbooks triggered the massive hike.

Meanwhile, Higgins made an immediate impact for Cincinnati in his rookie season, finishing with 67 receptions for 908 yards and six touchdowns in 16 games. A year later, he had a career-highs of 74 receptions and 1,091 yards despite missing three games.

Higgins maintained his production level in 2022 with 74 receptions for 1,029 yards and seven touchdowns. However, hamstring and rib injuries limited him to 12 games last season. As a result, he had career lows in receptions (42), receiving yards (656), and touchdowns (five).

But at his best, Higgins is a fantastic complementary wideout to Ja’Marr Chase. Having him in the formation gave Joe Burrow and Jake Browning a reliable pass-catching target, averaging 14.3 yards per catch in his four-season career.

Higgins was also exceptional for the Bengals during the 2021 postseason, collecting 18 receptions for 309 yards and two touchdowns. His efforts helped the Bengals win the AFC Championship over the Kansas City Chiefs and reach Super Bowl 56 against eventual winners Los Angeles Rams.

Offering Higgins the franchise tag could also be Cincinnati’s way to buy time for a contract extension. But if he disagrees with the tag until the specified deadline, he risks skipping the 2024 season.

-Lance Fernandez