IF Tee Higgins Hits the Trade Market, the Bears *Must* Pick Up the Phone
Let the list of drool-worthy trade candidates who could be on the Bears’ radar (if they ever actually hit the market) begin!
Earlier today, Paul Dehner Jr. (The Athletic) sorted through the Cincinnati Bengals’ offseason path. And in so doing, offered up potential cap casualty and extension candidates for a team that just competed in the AFC title game. One of those players up for a potential extension is Tee Higgins. And Dehner surmises that Higgins could be traded if the two sides can’t come to an agreement (it was more general speculation than any sort of specific report, but tracks). And if that happens to be the case, the Bears better be on the phone making calls to the Bengals’ front office.
Here’s what Dehner had to say about the situation (bold emphasis mine):
Higgins is not a free agent. His contract dictates he reports and plays for the last year of his deal, worth $4 million, but conversations need to be had about a long-term contract. If the numbers are outrageous and it’s clear the two sides won’t see eye to eye, the Bengals could go the route taken by multiple teams in recent seasons and deal the receiver for a top draft pick and start the cycle over with a rookie receiver.
Like I said, Dehner is just speculating, but he’s connecting very reasonable dots here. It’s worth the discussion.
Now, speaking of which: While Higgins hasn’t quite established himself as a certified WR1 yet, he’s quite close to that distinction. Higgins has the build (6-4, 215), skills, prospect pedigree, and a budding résumé. He certainly could be the No. 1 receiver in a top-tier NFL offense. Hence, my interest in the Bears as a possible landing spot in a trade.
Higgins, 24, is coming back-to-back 1,000-yard receiving seasons and has caught at least 67 passes in each of his first three years. Additionally, Higgins found the end zone at least six times in every season he has played since debuting in 2020. Through three seasons, Higgins’ numbers have him at a per-season pace of 71 catches, 1,009 receiving yards, and six touchdowns. In other words, Higgins might not be at that WR1 level yet but appears to be on the cusp. And perhaps he could break through that barrier if he wasn’t playing in Ja’Marr Chase’s shadow.
With a profile like that, you might wonder why Cincy would even consider moving Higgins. Fair enough. But I can explain.
Most notably, the Bengals must budget for the mega-extensions awaiting Chase and quarterback Joe Burrow. This isn’t to say that Cincy couldn’t also extend Higgins. But in a salary-capped league, you truly can’t keep everyone. And because the Bengals might want to re-allocate that salary cap space elsewhere (o-line? secondary?) in the future, it could nudge them toward trading Higgins. It’s not like it would be something they want to do. Instead, they’d probably think of it as a necessary evil.
Keep in mind we’ve seen A.J. Brown, Tyreek Hill, Davante Adams, and Stefon Diggs go from being deserving of an extension with one team to getting traded to a squad that fulfills those major contractual requests. It is also worth noting that the Bengals have been in what Dehner describes as “contentious and unproductive” negotiations with Higgins’ agent David Mulugheta over safety Jessie Bates.
Sometimes, those conversations can spill over elsewhere. Also, this might be a fun time to note that Mulugheta also represents Bears quarterback Justin Fields. And while Fields can’t go politicking publicly for Higgins, perhaps some behind-the-scenes greasing of the skids could be in order. Hey, don’t give me that look! Stranger things have happened in NFL offseason. With that in mind, we have to be open to any and all possibilities.
Bears GM Ryan Poles has been pretty open about wanting a No. 1 wide receiver.
Fields could certainly use one.
And, we, as a fanbase, would feel better about the offseason if this team came away with a legitimate WR1.
How Chicago’s football team goes about acquiring a player of that magnitude remains a mystery. Free agency won’t open its doors for 38 days. At that point, we’ll start the “legal tampering” period that kicks off activities. And the NFL Draft is even further away. There are 83 days until the Bears (or another team?) go on the clock with the first overall pick. The offseason won’t be in full swing until after the Super Bowl. But that won’t stop trade whispers from surfacing.
And I bet this isn’t the last time we hear Higgins as a candidate to be moved this offseason.