3 Bengals with the murkiest futures this off-season

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Wide receiver Tee Higgins 

The biggest name on the open market for the Bengals and, debatably, the biggest name in all of free agency at the wide receiver position is Tee Higgins. He is expected to be paid top dollar, and it could be very hard for the Bengals to match a contract of that nature.

Cincinnati has shown its prioritizing Ja'Marr Chase, who now becomes eligible for a contract extension and will for sure be paid a hefty amount himself. The players want Higgins back, the coaches want Higgins back, and even Tee has shown his love for the city and loves the idea of returning.

However, this is a business from all ends, and there will be teams out there like the Chiefs, Patriots, Bears, Commanders, or others that will throw unprecedented amounts of money at Higgins to lure him to their rosters. The Bengals' front office may not be able to do the same.

Now, Cincinnati can use the franchise tag the star receiver and bring him back for next season, but that can often be pretty murky. He would get paid a good amount, with the franchise tag value at the wide receiver position projected to be roughly $20.7 million, according to Spotrac. However, you don't get that long-term, sustainable deal that many want at a young age in the league. This could lead Higgins to say he isn't interested in playing under the tag, and that could lead to a potential trade or other issues.

Higgins' market value is projected at $16.5 million right now, but that doesn't mean a team with a ton of open cap space like the Chicago Bears or New England Patriots wouldn't pay him upwards of $22 or $23 million, and that is a number I cannot see the Bengals matching. Higgins had a down year compared to past seasons, but a lot of it was due to injury and the fact that his starting QB was also battling injuries for most of the NFL season.

Losing Higgins would be a tremendous loss, but the Bengals hold the 18th pick in the draft and drafted two up-and-coming young wide receivers in last year's draft who they have full confidence in. Andrei Iosivas and Charlie Jones.

Cincinnati has plenty of cap space to bring in other notable names to fill that lost void as well, so when Feb. 20 hits and free agency opens, we could be in store for one of the most crucial off-seasons to date for the Cincinnati Bengals franchise.