Cincinnati Bengals director of player personnel Duke Tobin issued a fiery response to the trade rumors that swirled around wide receiver Tee Higgins during last year’s NFL Scouting Combine.
Tobin shut down any notion that the team would entertain any potential offers that involved shipping Higgins off to another team in the NFL: “If they want a receiver, go find your own,” Tobin said at the time.
A year later, Tobin struck a noticeably different tone as the Bengals may have come to the realization that they might have to go find their own replacement for the star receiver.
“Last year, Tee Higgins was under contract to us,” Tobin said this week at the Senior Bowl, per the Cincinnati Enquirer.
“He was a guy that we drafted for that reason, to be a contributor for us. He’s not under contract now, so we’re going to have to work through how to do that and if it’s possible, we’ll have to go through the gymnastics of that. So, it’s a different scenario than it was last year. Trading a high-level player that’s under contract just because the future might demand it, that’s never really on my mind.”
The Bengals have a few options this offseason. They can offer Higgins a long-term contract extension or place the franchise tag on the 25-year-old wideout. A third option would be to simply let Higgins walk in free agency.
If the team elects to go the franchise route, Higgins would earn an estimated $22 million in 2024. He would then be a free agent again next offseason, unless the Bengals decide to tag and then trade Higgins to a team that is willing to sign him to a long-term deal.
Tobin suggested the organization is in a wait-and-see mode but would prefer to have Higgins back.
“We’ll see what happens this year,” Tobin said. “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.”
Aside from Higgins’ situation, the Bengals will also have to prioritize getting a contract extension done for three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase sometime in the near future.