Free Agent Watch: Tee Higgins | Landing Spots and Free Agency Outlook

by Matt Babich · Contracts & Free Agency
Tee Higgins Contract

Welcome to PlayerProfiler’s 2024 Free Agency Preview! This year, we’ll be providing you with player-by-player insights as we approach the Free Agency period opening March 13th. Tee Higgins’ contract is up this offseason, so we’ll kick off this series by examining the potential landing spots and free agency outlook for the former Clemson Tiger and current Cincinnati Bengal.

Background: 2023 Performance

Entering his fifth year in the league, Tee Higgins is now an unrestricted free agent. Higgins closed his opening tenure with Cincinnati in disappointing fashion, playing in only 12 games due to two different injuries and finishing with under 1,000 receiving yards for the second time in four years. Higgins has struggled to steadily produce as a Bengal, drawing questions as to whether or not he is an “elite” option that deserves top attention from the open market. Despite playing on a top-10 passing offense, Higgins drew 10 or more targets in just 10 of his 59 games played.

Given his stats over his first four years in the league, it makes sense that there may be some apprehension to signing Higgins to a large deal this offseason. To Higgins’ benefit, though, this is a relatively weak free agent class. So, let’s break down the most likely landing spots.

Most Likely Landing Spots

Cincinnati Bengals

As of now, it seems as though Higgins is a franchise tag candidate for the Bengals, as they look to keep their window open. However, there are strong reasons as to why the Bengals would opt to save money on the position and spend elsewhere this offseason.

The WR Franchise Tag value is expected to be about $20 Million. While the Bengals are sitting at No. 4 in the league in total cap space, a franchise tag would eat up one-third of their available money to spend this offseason. Since they also have to take care of superstar Ja’Marr Chase, the Bengals would have to dedicate a significant amount of their cap tying up their top-two receivers.

Further, the team has plenty of needs on both sides of the ball, starting with their offensive line that allowed 177 pressures and 27 sacks in 2023. Displaced left tackle Jonah Williams, who played right tackle after the signing of Orlando Brown, is hitting the open market. Also, the glaring holes that the 2023 offseason placed on the cornerback and safety positions are holes that need to be filled in the upcoming season if Cincinnati wants to have a chance at winning their division.

Given all of this, it would make much more sense for the Bengals to not offer Higgins the franchise tag and spend their money on more premium positions. They could draft a guy like Brian Thomas, Jr. in the upcoming draft, or try to get Higgins back on a more team-friendly deal.

Tennessee Titans

Aside from the obvious possibility of Higgins staying in Cincinnati on a non-franchise tagged deal, there are a few teams that have the cash to offer Higgins the pay he’s looking for. The Titans have nearly $74 Million in cap space and desperately need more weapons for Will Levis.

Beyond DeAndre Hopkins (who is only under contract for one more season), the Titans have relatively no pass-catching talent rostered. I expect Tennessee to be one of the heaviest pursuers of Higgins, should he hit the open market.

New England Patriots

The Patriots have $70 Million in cap space, wield an already solid defense, and haven’t had a true WR1 since the Obama administration. Should Higgins hit the open market, it would make nearly too much sense for the Patriots to pursue the veteran. While they’ve already wasted money on JuJu Smith-Schuster, they have some ways to get out of that contract without much harm to their total cap space. I would not be shocked if the now Mayo-led Patriots opt to move on from Juju’s contract and start their WR-room reconstruction from scratch by signing Higgins.

Detroit Lions

The Lions are another team with over $60 Million in cap space, and who need to secure more weapons in the passing game. Higgins could fit in well in an offense with Amon-Ra St. Brown and Sam LaPorta. As we’ve seen, there really isn’t much talent outside those two pass catchers in the receiver/tight end room. Adding a big-bodied outside receiver like Higgins could round-out that receiving corps and provide a much-needed boost to the Lions passing attack.

Carolina Panthers

Finally, while they don’t have excessive cap space, Carolina could opt to provide Bryce Young with some more serious talent after the hiring of Dave Canales. Working with Adam Thielen as their No. 1 receiver, the team needs some talent to surround Young with and they need it quick.

Thielen still has a little juice left, and Jonathan Mingo began progressing nicely towards the back half of the season. Adding a skilled outside receiver to the mix could provide a big boost to Young’s options as he looks to get past a rough rookie season.

Predicted Landing Spot

While I would not offer Higgins the franchise tag if I ran the Bengals, I expect that to be the way Higgins gets locked into his next contract and team. In their Super Bowl window, the Bengals believe they have the core they need to lift the Lombardi Trophy. Keeping that core together starts by getting Chase extended and Higgins back on some sort of deal.

Returning to Cincinnati, Higgins is a sell in dynasty at WR22. He has had only one season inside the top-24 fantasy wide receivers in his four years as a Bengal.

Follow @babich_matt10