During their playoff runs of the past two seasons, the Bengals have often been said to possess the NFL’s best receiving trio.
Ja’Marr Chase leads the unit, but his two top supporting pass-catchers have played significant roles in the team’s success. Their respective futures could be headed in opposite directions, however.
Tee Higgins has become a highly productive wideout in his own right, spending one year in Cincinnati before Chase’s arrival and two years after it. As a rookie, Higgins totaled 908 yards and six touchdowns on 67 catches.
The Bengals’ addition of Chase raised questions about Higgins’ workload to a degree, but the Clemson product has put up nearly identical statlines over the past two seasons with 74 receptions, over 1,000 yards and at least six scores in each campaign.
Higgins, 24, is now eligible for an extension. As a key member of the Bengals’ young core, he figures to be one of the team’s top offseason priorities (though finalizing a megadeal with quarterback Joe Burrow tops that list).
The former second-rounder would be in line for a hefty raise on a new pact given not only his production, but his age and position.
The receiver market erupted last offseason and is likely to continue to do so with the cap ceiling set to increase considerably in the future. When speaking on the subject of his future, Higgins made his intentions clear. Specifically, he said, “I plan on being in Cincinnati for a while,” via Ian Rapoport of NFL Network.
He is on the books for the 2023 season, the final year of his rookie contract, but would make for a logical extension candidate to stay in place alongside Burrow and Chase as the foundation of the Bengals offense.
Things may be much different for the third member of Cincinnati’s WR trio. Tyler Boyd has been a consistent complimentary piece in the Burrow era.
Though the presence of Higgins and Chase has had an unsurprising effect on the veteran’s workload. Boyd has seen his target and reception totals drop in each of the past three seasons. His 762 yards this past campaign was his fewest since 2017, and he figures to continue taking on a smaller role in the team’s passing attack.
Knowing that, the 28-year-old is aware of his status as a cut candidate. Boyd is under contract for one more year at a cap hit of $10.3M, but with no guaranteed money left on his pact, the Bengals would see just under $9M in savings via a release. He recently acknowledged the possibility of his Bengals tenure coming to an end, albeit with an optimistic tone.
“We’ll see what they want to do with me, but I know I’m still entitled for a year,” Boyd said, via ESPN’s Ben Baby. “I’m not counting my chances of not being here out. You never know.”
The Bengals are currently in better shape than most teams in terms of cap space, but several extensions with recent draftees need to be budgeted for. Whether or not their highly acclaimed receiving trio remains intact for one more year will be worth watching as the offseason takes shape.