The Cincinnati Bengals made a very polarizing move last offseason when they drafted quarterback Joe Burrow’s former LSU teammate wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase. That definitely dominated the headlines and narrative for the Bengals throughout 2021 as Chase had one of the best seasons a rookie wide receiver has ever had.
That overshadowed what was a great season for fellow wide receiver Tee Higgins who took a huge step in Year 2. There wasn’t a more obvious example of that than his last three games in the postseason.
- Height: 6’ 4”
- Weight: 215
- Age: 23
- College: Clemson
- Hometown: Oak Ridge, TN
- Experience: 2 seasons
Higgins is entering the third year of his rookie contract. He will be a player to watch in contract negotiations the next few seasons. The wide receiver market exploded when the Jacksonville Jaguars gave Cristian Kirk a four year $72 million contract this offseason. Since then players like Davante Adams and Tyreek Hill have demanded trades in order to go to teams willing/able to give them contracts to beat that.
The cap will be going up in the next few seasons. However, it will be interesting to see how Cincinnati navigates how they will use the cap space left after a monster contract for Burrow.
Higgins was the first selection of the Second Round in the 2020 NFL draft. He and Burrow came in and instantly gave fans nostalgia of the old Carson Palmer to Chad Johnson connection (another No. 9 to No. 85). That draft was absolutely loaded with great receiver prospects. Mock drafts had Higgins going as as the early teens to early in the Third Round. It wasn’t a knock on Higgins, it was just shows how unpredictable how those dominos were.
Luckily for the Bengals, the Clemson product was available at the start of Day 2. Even before the draft, it looked like a great landing spot for Higgins would be with the Bengals. They had A.J. Green there for him to not only learn how to adapt to the NFL as a slightly unpolished young receiver, but how to develop his talent off the field.
Green left after the 2020 season where Higgins stepped up and was often covered by opposing team’s top corners. He ultimately fell just short of 1,000 yards receiving, but that seemed more due to Burrow’s injury and being in a receiver position battle the first two weeks. However, those who sat through the last few games of the season saw Higgins develop. Early in the year he struggled a bit coming up with high point throws. You can chalk it up to chemistry, pressure and or inexperience. Late in the year it looked like the game slowed down and those high point contested catches were being completed much more often. A huge foreshadow for the 2021 season.
Before the season, Former Lions wide receiver Nate Burleson compared Higgins to a former teammate, Calvin Johnson. Most of that comparison came from how Burleson saw Johnson bulk up early in his career, which Higgins also did a great job of. You could tell Higgins put in the time during the offseason. That led him to his first 1,000 yard season, which had countless highlights of him going up and making spectacular catches over one or even multiple defenders.
The climax came when Higgins finished the 2021 postseason with two 100 yard receiving games to end the season along with a 96 yard game against the Tennessee Titans, which included a performance in the Super Bowl with four catches for 100 yards and two touchdowns. If Cincinnati held on we could very well be talking about who could have ended up being the Super Bowl MVP. Most of that also came with cornerback Jalen Ramsey on him.
Fit with the Bengals
This is an easy one. Cincinnati had an obvious vision when they drafted Chase last year. It was to surround Burrow with the best skill position group from top to bottom in the NFL, and you’d have a hard time convincing me there is a team that tops them. Between Higgins and Chase on the outside, it is pretty much impossible to fully contain what was one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL.
The Bengals will have some tough decisions to make the next few years, and this could very well be the last time we see this group together with Joe Mixon and Tyler Boyd being potential cap casualties in the coming years along with Burrow, Higgins and Chase having monster contracts in the next few seasons.
We don’t have to worry about any of that now, though. Higgins is a huge part of why this offense can not dominate with a new revamped offensive line in 2022. Defenses just have to pick their poison.