What is the NFL franchise tag? Explaining reasons Bengals likely to use it on Tee Higgins

The Cincinnati Bengals were projected to perform well in the 2023 season. However, injuries to key players, including the season-ending injury to Joe Burrow, had marred their season. Even the Bengals receiving players like Tee Higgins couldn’t avoid this setback.

The Bengals are now gearing up to have a strong comeback in the upcoming season. Retaining Higgins is essential for maintaining offensive continuity and providing support for Burrow. Now, the NFL franchise tag looks like a potential option to secure him for Cincy’s passing game.

NFL franchise tag: What is it and its function?

The NFL franchise tag is a one-year contract offered by a team to a player set to become a free agent. It prevents the player from hitting the open market while providing additional time for both parties to negotiate a long-term deal.

However, the tag is a double-edged sword. It offers security for the player in the short term. But it also limits their ability to explore better offers from other teams and potentially secure a more lucrative contract. It also exposes them to the risks associated with short-term contracts, such as injury or diminished performance affecting their long-term value.

NFL franchise tag
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The NFL franchise tag comes in two variations: exclusive and non-exclusive. The exclusive tag binds the player solely to their current team, preventing negotiations with other franchises. The player receives a salary equal to the average of the top five salaries at their position or 120% of their previous year’s salary, whichever is higher.

On the other hand, the non-exclusive tag allows the player to negotiate with other teams. If the player signs with a new team, the original team has the right to match the offer or receive two first-round draft picks as compensation. It’s based on the higher of the average of the five highest salaries at the player’s position over the last five years or 120% of his salary from the previous year.

Bengals likely to use franchise tag on Tee Higgins to avoid free agency

The Bengals are expected to use the NFL franchise tag on Tee Higgins if they can’t reach a long-term contract agreement before free agency begins. While there’s still a chance for a deal between the wide receiver and the team, tagging him appears more likely as the deadline nears.

The Bengals have until March 5 to apply the franchise tag to Higgins officially. This move was made possible by negotiating Joe Burrow’s contract, which gives the team flexibility to retain key players like Higgins and Justin Jefferson, thanks to Burrow’s manageable cap hit for the 2024 season.

Higgins franchise tag value is projected to be $21.7 million. This figure represents a minimum baseline for his earning potential given the landscape of the receiver market.

Higgins recorded a back-to-back 1,000-yard receiving season in the 2022 season. However, the 2023 season has witnessed a lackluster performance from him due to injuries. He recorded 42 catches, 656 yards and 5 touchdowns while only appearing in just 12 games.

Nevertheless, the WR showcased his elite talent when healthy. His stellar performance included two touchdowns against the Minnesota Vikings. The receiver’s game-changing 21-yard touchdown catch even left Justin Jefferson stunned.


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Maliha is an insightful sports writer with over a year of experience focusing on the NFL. Initially venturing into both NFL and NBA coverage, her journey began without a particular affinity for American football. However, her passion for the sport blossomed as she started following football more. Now, a huge NFL fan, Maliha meticulously follows every development within the league. She always wants to ensure her analysis is comprehensive and up-to-date to fellow readers.


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