How Tee Higgins' future with Bengals could impact their draft strategy

Higgins requested a trade at the onset of free agency.
Minnesota Vikings v Cincinnati Bengals
Minnesota Vikings v Cincinnati Bengals / Jeff Dean/GettyImages
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The Cincinnati Bengals are entering one of the more intriguing and gut-wrenching months of the entire season. Free agency winds down, but a vital NFL draft nears. Cincinnati holds the 18th overall pick in the 1st round, and it could go in many different directions with the selection. However, the end result of the ongoing Tee Higgins saga will play a crucial role in the decisions that are made.

In early March, Higgins requested a trade from Cincinnati after he was franchise-tagged for the 2024 campaign. The Bengals have yet to move him and really don't have to as Cincinnati has most, if not all, of the leverage in this situation.

The tag is worth just over $20 million next year, and either Higgins plays on it and gets that money, or he sits out and doesn't get paid anything. Or a trade could materialize. However, one would assume that a trade would need to get done prior to draft night -- or on draft night -- so that the Bengals can get proper draft compensation in a return package.

It's fair to wonder if a trade will happen at all, as the Bengals still seem to remain adamant regarding the value that Higgins brings to the team and that they want him in Cincinnati in 2024.

Obviously, if Higgins is moved, it changes everything about how the Bengals will decide to approach the NFL Draft. We could even possibly see Cincinnati select a wide receiver in round one. So, with that in mind, here's a look at three possible options at wide receiver if Higgins is moved prior to draft day.

3 options at wide receiver if Bengals trade Higgins

WR, LSU, Brian Thomas Jr.

Brian Thomas Jr. is one of the more underrated players in this draft. Yes, he is still a projected first round pick, but is often overshadowed by his teammate, Malik Nabers, who is projected just a tad higher.

Nonetheless, Thomas had an astounding year for an LSU offense that was as efficient as any in the entire country. Thomas has a big frame -- he's 6-foot-5 -- and he has an effective and wide catch radius when he approaches the football. His intangibles are good and he's ranked by many as the 4th best receiver in this draft class.

The Bayou product had 68 receptions, 1,177 yards, and 17 touchdowns last season. He averaged 17.3 yards per receptions and close to 100 yards per game. Thomas could fall right into the range of Cincinnati's pick at 18. Some have him going as high as 12 and others as low as 20-25.