Bengals Tee Higgins not expected to report for OTAs

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Tee Higgins still has not signed his franchise tender, and the Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver is not expected to do so before the start of Organized Team Activities next week, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

By not signing the tag, Higgins would be ineligible to report for OTAs, which the Bengals begin May 28. Phase 3 of the NFL offseason workout program, known as OTAs, allows teams to begin running 7-on-7, 9-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills without contact over 10 practices in a four-week span.

Higgins requested a trade in March as the Bengals reportedly had not engaged in further contract negotiations, following early discussions last year, as he pursues a long-term deal in line with the league’s top-paid receivers. He is the lone NFL player this offseason to not receive a contract extension after being franchise-tagged.

The Bengals and Higgins have until mid-July to get a long-term deal done. Otherwise, Higgins would be set to play on the one-year tender, which is worth $21.8 million.

Higgins could be following the same path former Bengals safety Jessie Bates used when the organization last used the franchise tag on a player in 2022. Bates did not report to the team’s offseason workouts that year and missed most of the preseason but signed his tag and began practicing after the third preseason game.

Bates started the opener and the next 15 games in another standout season, then signed a four-year, $64 million deal with the Falcons that offseason. He and Higgins share the same agent, David Mulugheta.

Higgins, the team’s No. 33 overall pick in 2020 behind Joe Burrow, was a key part of the rebuild that led to Cincinnati’s first playoff wins in 31 years leading up to a Super Bowl LVI appearance his second season. He had 908 yards receiving as a rookie when Burrow played just 10 games, and Higgins followed that with a pair of 1,000-yard seasons in 2021 and 2022, helping the Bengals to back-to-back AFC North titles and a pair of AFC Championship games.

The final season of his rookie deal was impacted by a pair of injuries, including a rib fracture and hamstring injury that limited him to 12 games and just 656 yards receiving and five touchdowns. Without being able to reach a long-term extension agreement, Cincinnati made the early decision to use the franchise tag to keep him on the roster at least one more year, and the expectation remains that he will be playing for the Bengals in 2024.

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