While we wait for a game that literally no one cares about coming up on Sunday, Cincinnati Bengals fans have their eyes set on the new league year, which brings free agency, franchise tags, and the draft. The Bengals are in a pretty good position as far as it comes to cap space, and they’ll be spending money again this offseason.
The question is this: how should they spend it?
It’s all going to come down to the decision they make on Tee Higgins, and they’ll have three options.
- Tee Higgins signs with another team as an unrestricted free agent and the Bengals probably get a compensatory pick for him.
- They use their franchise tag to keep Higgins in Cincinnati for one year at around $21.665 million, fully guaranteed.
- They use their franchise tag on Higgins and then trade him to a team that can afford to pay him in exchange for what would likely be a first-round pick or more.
If they go with option No. 1, and I don’t think they will, they’ll be free to spend as much as they’d like at whatever position they want. Need a new defensive tackle? Buy one. Need a new wide receiver to replace Higgins? Buy one. Need a new running back? Buy one.
Pros: They would have a lot of money to spread around.
Cons: They lose a top-10 wide receiver with nothing but a Super Bowl loser ring and a compensatory pick for him. This is not a deal I, or the team, should be willing to make.
Option No. 2 seems like the most likely thing to happen. The Bengals see one more chance to keep Tee Higgins for one more year by using their franchise tag on him. It will cost them. The tag numbers are expected to be around $21.7 million for wide receivers, and that’s a lot to spend on a player for one year. However, it’s Tee.
Pros: They get Higgins for one more year with much of the core of the team still together. They can make a Super Bowl push, and hopefully, with Higgins’ help, they can bring a Lombardi back to Cincinnati, at which point he will set sail for a new destination.
Cons: $22.7 million is quite the chunk of change for what becomes a one-year rental player.
Option No. 3 seems like a dream scenario, but, like most dreams, it takes place in a dream world. So here, they use the franchise tag on Tee and then shop him to teams in desperate need of a wide receiver that don’t have the same cap conditions the Bengals do (the highest-paid player in all of the NFL with Ja’Marr Chase entering contract negotiations).
Pros: They get likely an extra first-round pick this season, and possibly more, giving themselves all that cap space to work with in free agency and an extra pick at what could be an impactful player at a position of importance for years to come.
Cons: They lose Tee and likely replace him with a free agent or a high-ish draft pick. Tee Higgins isn’t easily replaceable though.
Here’s the thing. The Bengals are already going to lose Tyler Boyd. There’s almost no chance they spend the kind of money Boyd is still capable of earning in this league. I don’t think they should lose Higgins too. I know change is coming, but it would be nice to take the steps instead of jumping off the cliff.
Having said that, if the Bengals receive a great offer for Tee Higgins after he signs his tender, they’d be stupid not to at least give it a few moments to consider it. The Bengals have already built a solid foundation on which to win future championships. Two wisely-used first-round picks could build a dynasty.
That’s just my two cents, though.
What are yours?
Some other randomness:
- Have you bought James Rapien’s “Enter the Jungle?” What did you think? I was thinking about getting one.
- If I got to create a list of priorities this offseason, the top five would be:
- Tag Tee
- Cut Joe Mixon before his roster bonus
- Sign FA DT (whether that’s Reader or another premier defensive tackle)
- Sign FA safety to help with experience in the secondary that’s not Nick Scott
- Sign veteran RT to compete with possible incoming rookie RT
- What are yours?
- I watched the Pro Bowl, or at least part of it, for a while. It was fun, but it’s not football. I had fun watching Chase have fun. It was cool to get a closer look at some players that I don’t get to watch very often. But it’s not football. I think it’s just me projecting my upcoming dread that the season is almost over, and I’m not giving it a real chance. Did you watch all of it? What did you think?
- A player having “x number of Pro Bowls” when they retire should mean next to nothing. The Pro Bowl is largely a popularity contest. All-Pro means something. Pro Bowl doesn’t carry much weight, at least with me.
- Seeing Ja’Marr Chase hug Jessie Bates made me happy and sad. I know why the Bengals didn’t extend him to a long-term deal, even after seeing the way Dax Hill struggled in coverage. It’s a sad reality that comes along with the business side of the league.
I got Niners by 10.
34-24 in the Super Bowl over the Chiefs.