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Nate Tice Makes Case For Franchise Tagging Tee Higgins: 'I Would Tag Him And Then Figure It Out Later'

Cincinnati has a few big contract decisions to make.

CINCINNATI — The Athletic's Nate Tice and Robert Mays dove into the Tee Higgins extension scenarios on a recent Athletic Football Show and had some differing thoughts on what the Bengals should do with their second-best pass-catcher.

Higgins is eligible for an extension this offseason and does not have that fifth-year option lever for the Bengals to pull as a second-round pick.

"I would (franchise) tag him and then figure it out later," Tice said to start the conversation. "Try and figure out the extension later, but at least have that tag. I mean we've seen other teams do this, the Bucs did this with (Chris) Godwin after they signed Mike Evans. So it's not like the end of the world. They do have to thread a needle. You already see the transition happening. We've talked about this on several shows where you see them trying now to invest in the defense, in youth on the defense and cheap talent on the defense because they know their offense is about to get expensive.

"So you already see some movement. So I think I think the tag is very possible. They just did it with Jesse Bates. Yeah, it didn't make Bates happy, but you know, it's one way to put a Band-Aid on a bullet hole. So I think you know, Higgins is gonna get a pretty penny on the open market like he absolutely would if he made it that far. So I think the Bengals should find any means possible to get him because he is so important to what they do."

Looking at current receiver contracts, Higgins would've been hit with a 19.7 million franchise tag in this scenario if his deal was up in 2023. Next year it's likely to creep up over $20 million given an expected market reset when Vikings star Justin Jefferson signs his new deal.

Tice made sure to note that if the Bengals can they should extend Higgins

Mays was a little firmer on the other side and thinks the best course of action is to just get a long-term deal done.

"They're gonna have plenty of calf space," Mays said. "Maybe it's a cash issue. If you're giving out the Burrow extension this offseason. You don't want to give him (Higgins) a huge deal. The same offseason you're potentially going to pay Burrow, but they have a lot of financial flexibility. Right now, if they move on from Joe Mixon in the next year, which I assume that they will. They have $70 million in cap space. I know it's more than just a next-year consideration, but I think that they have so many potential cheap incoming players on defense.

"They've made sure that they can hopefully rely on some younger players at corner and safety, maybe edge rusher, after drafting Myles Murphy like I think that they're going to try to go cheap on defense. I would just pay him (Higgins). Tyler Boyd is going to be gone, hopefully, have a ready-made replacement for Tyler Boyd with the guy that you drafted this year (Charlie Jones). So even if you have two expensive receivers and an expensive left tackle and an expensive quarterback, if you save in other areas of your roster I have no issues with just giving him the extension he deserves."

Pay the offense, then draft and mine gems on defense.

That's a prudent course of action for the Bengals to take for the entirety of the Burrow era and one they seemingly have started to employ given the offseason moves over the past 18 months.

Cincinnati has some great financial problems to tackle over the next few years as they continue pursuing the franchise's first Super Bowl.

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