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Tee Higgins set to keep proving his elite status

Is Tee Higgins a true No. 1 receiver? Yes. Is he the No. 2 receiver on his team? Also, yes.

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Syndication: The Enquirer Sam Greene/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Cincinnati Bengals have the best trio of wide receivers in the league. It starts with Ja’Marr Chase, selected out of LSU in the first round of the 2021 NFL draft, and it ends with Tyler Boyd, the team’s slot receiver, and one of the best slot receivers in the NFL, selected out of Pitt in the second round in 2016.

Between the two of them is another top-tier wide receiver selected in the second round of the 2020 season, just after quarterback Joe Burrow, was the team’s first-round pick out of Clemson. He’s shown the entire league over his first three seasons that he’s also a No. 1 receiver.

Tee Higgins

  • Height: 6-4
  • Weight: 219 lbs.
  • Age: 24
  • College: Clemson
  • Hometown: Oak Ridge, TN
  • Experience: 3 years

Cap Status:

Higgins is entering the last year of his rookie deal, and since he wasn’t selected in the first round, there is no fifth-year option for him. If the Bengals can’t extend him or use their franchise tag on him, he will be playing for another team in 2024.

Unfortunately, for Higgins, and the Bengals, the team has to figure out an extension for Burrow first. Burrow could be in the middle of negotiating an extension that makes him the highest-paid player in league history, and deservedly so.

However, that massive extension could leave the Bengals in a lurch when it comes to Higgins.

Spotrac predicts that Higgins could sign a contract for up to four years and $80.5 million, which would be an average salary of $20 million per year. If the team does that, they’ll have to turn around and figure out an extension for Chase, who is eligible to negotiate an extension after the 2023 season.

If the Bengals can keep all three, they could be paying a minimum of $100 million per year on just them.


Higgins started his sophomore season in 2018 at Clemson and helped the Tigers win the College Football Playoff National Championship with three receptions for 81 yards against Alabama. He finished that season with 59 catches for 936 yards and 12 touchdowns.

The next year, he started again, and he again found himself in the National Championship game, but this time it was against LSU, and ironically, his future quarterback in the NFL. While he did score a rushing touchdown and caught three passes for 52 yards in that game, Burrow, Jefferson, and Chase were too much for the Tigers. Higgins finished his junior year of college with 1,167 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns.

He decided to enter the draft following the 2019 NCAA season and was selected by the Bengals with the first pick of the second round. In his rookie season, Higgins caught 67 passes for 908 yards and six touchdowns but lost his starting quarterback halfway through the year to a knee injury.

Since then, he has put up over 1,000 yards in both his second and third seasons, with 13 total touchdowns, helping the team not only win their first playoff game in over 30 years, but was also instrumental in their Super Bowl run in 2021, and almost helped them get back last year, losing in the AFC Championship game by a field goal.

Outlook on the 2023 season:

Higgins is switching from number 85 to 5, which was the number he wore while at Clemson. He comes back for the final year of his rookie contract with Chase and Boyd but also with Irv Smith Jr. and an improved offensive line thanks to the addition of Orlando Brown Jr. in free agency.

On paper, the Bengals have one of the best offenses in the league, and most analysts agree that the team’s wide receiver room is the best in the NFL.

A deep dive by The Athletic’s Paul Dehner Jr. suggests that Higgins’ presence on the field actually helps Chase’s productivity more than the other way around. Higgins actually had better yards per route run when Chase was out in 2023, which is a long-winded way to say what we already knew: Higgins is a true No. 1 receiver just as Chase is. While that’s good for what we get to see on the field, it’s bad for the Bengals’ pocketbook.

There’s a real chance the Bengals won’t be able to retain Higgins after the 2023 season unless it’s on a one-year franchise tag. If that’s the case, we should enjoy watching Chase and Higgins now, because we may not see them on the field and in the same uniforms after the 2023 season comes to an end.

The team is in win-now mode, and considering how much talent could walk out the door after the upcoming season is over, winning it all now is more possible than it ever has been for this team. Higgins is a huge reason for that.