The Bengals face a significant decision this offseason regarding whether to apply the franchise tag to wide receiver Tee Higgins, and the choice is not as straightforward as it might seem.

Teams in the NFL have a window from Feb. 20 until 4 p.m. New York time on March 5 to use the franchise tag on their unrestricted free agents. Higgins, having completed his initial four-year contract, is now eligible for free agency. In the absence of a long-term extension, the Bengals have the option to place the franchise tag on him, retaining his services for the 2024-25 season.

There are two types of franchise tags: exclusive and non-exclusive. The exclusive tag prevents the player from signing with another NFL team for the entire season if they reject the offer. The non-exclusive tag allows players (or their agents) to negotiate with other teams, and the current team has the opportunity to match any offer. If they choose not to match, the team is entitled to receive two first-round draft picks as compensation.

While the franchise tag typically results in a binding agreement due to the high compensation from other teams, it comes with a substantial cost. For wide receivers, the estimated price for the 2024-25 season is $20.7 million (each position is priced differently based on the top five contracts at each position in April).

Here are three reasons why the Bengals should consider tagging Higgins and three reasons why they might not:


1. Making quarterback Joe Burrow happy:
– Burrow emphasized in a press conference on Jan. 8 that he expects Higgins to be with the team in 2024. He highlighted Higgins’ significance to the team, expressing the sentiment that he wants him back.

2. The team is in “win now” mode:
Despite missing the playoffs in 2023, the Bengals remain in “win now” mode, with a healthy Burrow and most starters returning from the successful 2022 team. Retaining Higgins, even for one more season, aligns with the team’s goal of contending.

3. Minnesota game showcased his potential:
– Despite Higgins’ injuries and inconsistent performance, he demonstrated his exceptional abilities in the Dec. 16 game against the Minnesota Vikings. His crucial touchdown receptions in the fourth quarter showcased his playmaking skills, and his height and jumping ability make him a valuable asset.


1. Money could be used elsewhere in free agency:
– With an estimated $61.4 million in salary cap space, the Bengals have the flexibility to address multiple needs. However, the franchise tag’s cost for Higgins may limit their ability to allocate premium dollars to other positions.

2. Production slipped in 2023:
– Higgins’ production declined in 2023, with career-low averages in receptions, yards, and touchdowns. The drop in performance for two consecutive seasons raises questions about his consistency.

3. History of hamstring issues:
– Higgins has a history of hamstring injuries, missing several games in 2023 due to this issue. Considering the risk associated with a high-priced tag, his injury history becomes a factor in the decision-making process.

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