The Cincinnati Bengals have made it clear to all 31 other teams around the league that their star wide receiver Tee Higgins is not available for trade, despite the possibility of free agency.
Speaking at the annual NFL Scouting Combine, Bengals director of player personnel Duke Tobin dismissed the idea that the team could be interested in negotiating an exit for the 24-year-old this offseason.
He also said that Cincy’s front office had not received any offers from other teams, and even if they had, removing Higgins was not part of the team’s long-term plans.
“If they want a receiver, go get your own,” Tobin said ESPN on Tuesday. “In my opinion, Tee Higgins is a good piece for the Cincinnati Bengals. The trade is a bit ridiculous right now.”
Higgins, who just completed his third season in the league, is about to enter the final year of his rookie contract and is among a number of standout players eligible for extensions this year or next, including quarterback Joe Burrow and fellow Ja Mar Chase.
BACK OFF: Bengals not planning to trade top receiver Tee Higgins this offseason
Higgins (far right) enters the final year of his rookie deal along with QB Joe Burrow (C) and fellow quarterback Ja’Marr Chase (far left)
Since being drafted in 2020, Higgins has been on a mission to become one of the most reliable receivers in league history. According to ESPN, the Tennessee native is just one of 15 players to record more than 3,000 total receiving yards.
Last season, the second-round pick came in for another 1,000+ yard season after finishing with 1,091 yards in 2021.
The former Clemson man’s production has translated well in both of the team’s past two postseasons. Against the LA Rams in Super Bowl LVI (2021), Higgins caught four passes for 100 yards and two touchdowns.
In Cincy’s AFC Championship title loss to the Kansas City Chiefs last season, Higgins had a team-high 83 yards and a touchdown in the 23-20 loss at Arrowhead Stadium.
Bengals coach Zac Taylor dispelled any speculation about the team trading Higgins this offseason.
“That’s why whenever you see the rumors going around there, it’s nonsense,” Taylor told ESPN from the Indiana Convention Center, which is next to Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indianapolis.
“At the end of the day, I get to call the plays and it’s fun [playmakers] out there. You don’t really want to give it up.”
Higgins’ fourth-year salary represents a cap hit of four million for the Bengals as the team tries to sort out the future of many of its essentials, including Barrow.
Bengals coach Zach Taylor dismissed the Higgins speculation as “nonsense.”
Tobin clarified that team officials have already reached a rough estimate of the value of a potential contract extension for Burrow as this year’s free agency begins on March 12.
However, the Bengals have not imposed a signing deadline on their star quarterback, as the 26-year-old should command a base salary of just over $1 million next season, while he has a cap hit of $11.515 million, according to Sportrac.
Barrow has a fifth-year option that can be triggered on his deal and is slated to earn $29.5 million that is part of his rookie, four-year, $36.19 million contract.
“I’ve been pretty vocal about what Joe means to us and my job is to facilitate his success as best I can by putting pieces around him and his contract will be done when it’s done,” Tobin said. “But it’s a good problem to have. It’s a vital part of what we do.’
Tobin and Taylor added that Higgins is a critical cog in the team’s recent success. The Bengals finished atop the AFC North by the end of the last two seasons and reached the AFC Championship Game both of those years, winning one and losing another to the Chiefs.
Tobin, whose closest thing the Bengals have to a “general manager,” said Higgins is shaping up to be the player Cincinnati had high hopes for on draft day three years ago.
“I envision him being a part of what we do next for a long time,” said the 52-year-old longtime team executive. “That’s the hope. We want our guys – especially our guys who come in and prove they can help us win big.”