Tee Higgins requests trade: What happens next?

Minnesota Vikings v Cincinnati Bengals
Minnesota Vikings v Cincinnati Bengals / Jeff Dean/GettyImages

Well, that didn't take too long. Just days before NFL free agents are permitted to sign deals with new teams, Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins requested a trade away from the franchise, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.

The Bengals officially designated Higgins as a franchise player last month in the hopes of ultimately reaching a long-term agreement with the receiver. However, such talks apparently never materialized, and now Higgins wants out.

This is huge news not only for the Bengals, but also for the entire league, as Higgins immediately becomes one of the top receivers available this offseason. Teams that were planning to go after a top receiver in free agency now have another option.

Higgins played the first four seasons of his career in Cincinnati after the Bengals selected him in the second round (33rd overall) of the 2020 NFL Draft. During those four seasons, Higgins compiled 135 receptions, 2,448 receiving yards and 27 receiving touchdowns. In the process, he became a favorite target of quarterback Joe Burrow, who will likely be disappointed by Higgins' request for a change of scenery.

What's next for the Bengals?

Technically, the Bengals don't have to trade Higgins, as he's still under team control for another season due to the franchise tag. However, it seems likely that a trade will ultimately come to fruition, as organizations often don't want to keep a player who doesn't want to be there.

Plus, the Bengals could probably get a very nice return for a young, productive receiver like Higgins. Such a return could include some draft picks that the team could use to bolster other parts of the roster, or move in a different trade.

Top receiver Ja'Marr Chase isn't going anywhere, and he's in line for a major extension from Cincinnati, either this offseason or next. Perhaps Higgins' trade request will alter the team's approach to veteran receiver Tyler Boyd, who is headed for free agency. If Higgins won't be around, perhaps the Bengals will be more motivated to bring Boyd back than they would have been otherwise.

Or, the Bengals could look to the draft or free agency to add some depth at the wide receiver spot. They have options at least, and it will be intriguing to see what they ultimately decide to do. One thing is for certain though, things just got very interesting, very fast for Cincinnati this offseason.