The Bengals have tough decisions ahead with dynamic trio

Super Bowl LVI - Los Angeles Rams v Cincinnati Bengals
Super Bowl LVI - Los Angeles Rams v Cincinnati Bengals / Ronald Martinez/GettyImages

This offseason has already presented some tough decisions to be made by the Cincinnati Bengals and unfortunately, the difficult decisions will continue for the franchise.

An easy decision is to extend Joe Burrow, and according to Paul Dehner Jr. of The Athletic, "The Joe Burrow contract is coming."

Since arriving in Cincinnati in 2020, Burrow has been gifted with having Tee Higgins as one of his top targets. His buddy Ja'Marr Chase arrived the next year so Burrow essentially has had two No. 1 receivers at his disposal. That has helped him become one of the best quarterbacks in the league but now the Bengals have a decision to make.

Burrow is a no-brainer to extend but what about Higgins? Chase is due for an extension next year and it'd be a shock if Cincinnati didn't extend the former No. 5 overall pick. Higgins has been an incredible weapon to have but it's going to be difficult to pay a quarterback and two receivers a massive amount of money while trying to keep the rest of the roster in tip-top shape.

Can the Bengals afford to keep Burrow, Chase, and Higgins?

Brad Spielberger, PFF's salary cap analyst, is quoted frequently in Dehner's article and mentions that it's going to be hard to keep all three players.

"“I think it’s really, really hard,” Spielberger said of keeping all three. “In my mind, you are talking $100 million per year to three players. Yes, the cap is going to rise and all those things, sure, but if you are trying to maintain a good defense, which has certainly been very valuable to this team the last couple of years, it just gets really, really tough when you have that much money allocated to so few players.”"

From Dehner's article

Bengals fans don't want to imagine the offense without Higgins being a part of it and Higgins himself has said he'd like to stick around. Maybe this means he accepts less money. We'll have to see what ends up happening with him but it's not going to be an easy decision to make here.

The Bengals don't have to pay Higgins this offseason, for what it's worth. He's under contract for one more year and then the franchise could opt to franchise tag him next spring and try to get a deal worked out then.

That could allow Burrow's deal to get done this offseason and then the team could wait and see how this year goes before committing long-term to Higgins. The problem is if they wait to extend Higgins until next year, they could be forced to extend both him and Chase next year. Again, that's a lot of money to invest in two receivers and wouldn't leave much play money for building a good defense.

The Bengals might be known as an offensive team but their defense has gotten them out of a lot of jams during this magical two-year run. They have been smart to draft potential departure's replacements a year in advance so maybe they continue to run with that strategy if they were to extend Burrow, Chase, and Higgins.

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Either way, these are some difficult decisions to make and could determine whether the Bengals remain a Super Bowl contender or revert back to being a fringe-playoff team.