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No, the Bengals are not trading Tee Higgins

Speculation is rampant, but the Bengals aren’t budging here.

AFC Divisional Playoffs - Cincinnati Bengals v Buffalo Bills Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

Just because something appears logical, doesn’t make it likely.

The NFL world is having a hard time grasping that when it comes to the Cincinnati Bengals possibly trading wide receiver Tee Higgins.

“Possibly” doesn’t even feel like the right word. Improbably is much more apt.

The latest buzz comes from NFL reporter Ari Meirov of

“Tee Higgins is a name we’re going to hear a lot about,” Meirov said regarding trade inquiries for the Bengals’ receiver. “And it’s just simply because they have so many guys to pay. ... Joe Burrow needs a new contract. Ja’Marr Chase will be up for a new contract next year, which opens the door to the question of what happens to Tee Higgins? Who is probably the No. 1 receiver on most teams, and he has every right to ask for a contract like A.J. Brown, who got $25 million per year last year when he was traded from Tennessee to Philadelphia.”

A valid question. Thankfully, there’s something called precedent.

On one hand, there have been several instances of high-profile receivers being dealt in recent years. Stefon Diggs, Tyreek Hill, Hollywood Brown, and A.J. Brown all come to mind. Deebo Samuel seemed to be following suit this past offseason before the San Francisco 49ers paid him lucratively.

That’s what the rest of the league has been up to. The Bengals have been doing their own thing for a while.

There aren’t real examples of the Bengals recouping optimal value for one of their star players without said player giving them no choice. Carson Palmer threatened retirement and didn’t get traded for several months until the then Oakland Raiders coughed up two first-round picks. Before that, there was a declined offer of two firsts for Chad Johnson. The Carlos Dunlap saga only ended after the long-time Bengal put his house up for sale and leaked his spot on the depth chart to Instagram.

This club simply doesn’t trade away star players in a proactive manner, and Higgins absolutely qualifies as one of their stars.

A template for how this could play out not only already exists, it was created by another Bengals player who’s represented by Higgins’ agent, David Mulugheta. Jessie Bates III was coming off an elite third season with the team in the 2021 offseason. Bates was offered a long-term deal but chose to decline it. He was not even 25 years old and his value was never higher; the Bengals could’ve been compensated handsomely if they were to trade him away before the season. They chose to keep him around, eventually placing the franchise tag on him in the 2022 offseason. This prompted him to play the holdout game as he continued to decline the long-term offer in front of him. The Bengals didn’t budge and awaited his return. Sure enough, he played the entire season on the tag.

Instead of looking for what could’ve been a draft pick or two, Cincinnati got two more years out of a great player as their worst case scenario. This is the expectation when it comes to Higgins, because the Bengals aren’t sitting around worrying about whether or not they can afford to pay their stud receiver while also taking care of Joe Burrow and, eventually, Ja’Marr Chase, no matter how much skepticism exists on the outside looking in.

Another major factor in play here is the Bengals’ willingness to get creative with these deals. Quarterback and receiver are the two positions the front office historically values the most, and with how much the market has evolved for each position in recent years, they are expected to follow suit and match the league’s practices with long-term deals involving heavy amounts of cash up front and future guarantees, something no one would’ve expected just three years ago at this time.

The trio either stays intact or doesn’t, the likelihood of the latter won’t spark the Bengals giving up two more years of Higgins catching touchdowns in a Bengals uniform. Because the 24-year old pass-catcher checks every box of a player who the team prioritizes to keep around instead of handing over to another team willingly.

So if teams do end up blowing up the phone lines of Paycor Stadium, expect this to be the club’s response: