NFL salary cap expert says Bengals should extend Tee Higgins and trade Ja'Marr Chase

Buffalo Bills v Cincinnati Bengals
Buffalo Bills v Cincinnati Bengals / Kevin Sabitus/GettyImages

There has been a lot of scuttlebutt around contract situations in the Queen City. That is to be expected when the Cincinnati Bengals have one of the most talented rosters in the NFL. With success comes the inability to pay everyone their market value in a salary-capped sport.

Next year, the bill will come due for one of the highest-profile stars, Tee Higgins. Most think signing Joe Burrow, Higgins, and Ja’Marr Chase to extensions will be difficult. The prevailing sentiment is that the team will stick with Chase long-term over Higgins.

Meanwhile, at least one NFL expert believes the Bengals would be better off taking a different route.

On his most recent podcast, Jason Fitzgerald posited a rather shocking suggestion. It is surprising in the sense that we have not heard it rather than that it is beyond comprehension.

When discussing the possibility of the Bengals extending Chase and Higgins in the wake of the Joe Burrow contract extension, Fitzgerald editorialized that Cincinnati would be better off signing Higgins and trying to trade Chase.

"“I know that I’m in the minority on this one. I think you would be better off trying to work out a deal with Higgins and trading Ja’Marr Chase. I think Higgins can be more consistent. I think it might end up being a little bit more of a reasonable deal. And I think you can get more in return for Chase. But I don’t think they’re going to do that. I think that they’re just going to decide that Chase is the higher pick, and so that’s who they are going to go with.”"

Jason Fitzgerald

At first glance, this might seem ridiculous. But is it?

The case for extending Tee Higgins and trading Ja'Marr Chase

Everyone would agree that Higgins would be the number-one option for several teams. He was already just that in his rookie year for the Bengals. He caught 67 passes for 908 yards and six touchdowns in his 2020 season. He’s gone over 1,000 yards every season since, missing three games in 2021 and 2022.

Fitzgerald is correct to suggest the new contract for Higgins could be less than the one Chase is expected to receive. However, the longer the two sides take to agree, the more expensive and difficult it becomes. Nevertheless, Higgins and his team may want a top-5 value contract, whereas Chase will be more likely to reset the receiver market.

This could also be why the two sides were reportedly not close to a deal after the news of Burrow’s contract extension broke.

Higgins is a number-one receiver. He should be paid as such. His agent will know that. If the Bengals try to pay him otherwise, that will not and should not work.

Fitzgerald is also correct when he says this opinion is in the minority. Most consider it a fait accompli that the Bengals will not hold on to both starting wideouts and will re-sign Chase to a massive deal.

Fans of other teams and perhaps the organizations themselves have thought about approaching the Bengals with trade offers for Higgins. That is what led to the now infamous “get your own” draft-combine interview from Duke Tobin.

Fitzgerald also noted that it is possible for the Bengals to re-sign both receivers. However, he does not think it is something the organization would do. Of that possibility, Fitzgerald said, “I’m not going to say that it makes it impossible for them to retain all three. I mean, you could do it. I just don’t think they will.”


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In the end, fans of the Cincinnati Bengals should hope the team finds a way to keep the core intact for the foreseeable future. That nucleus includes Higgins and Chase. However, if it truly is one or the other for salary cap reasons, it is not absurd to wonder if going with Higgins is the way to go. Or is it?