Playing second fiddle to an elite wide receiver like Ja’Marr Chase isn’t easy if you are someone seeking recognition for your accomplishments. Quietly, Tee Higgins has averaged 1,000 yards receiving over three seasons and has evolved into possibly the best WR2 in the NFL.
In the last year of his rookie contract, Higgins is projected to demand more than $20 million if he gets to the open market. Can the Bengals afford to keep their talented receiver?
It’s rare to see a player so consistent over three seasons, with almost exact numbers in 2020-2022. Higgins had six or more targets in 35 of his 46 career games and had 60+ yards in 26 of those contests. He benefits from having Chase opposite him, but in his rookie season, Higgins was the WR1 despite an aging AJ Green garnering nearly as many targets as Higgins.
It’s a critical year for the Bengals and everything is stacking up to give them the best offense they have had in years. Long-time WR3 Tyler Boyd is also playing in the last year of his contract and it should be his last season in the Cincy.
Franchise quarterback Joe Burrow is in the fourth year of his rookie deal, and his fifth-year option will cost the Bengals nearly $30 million. His contract should exceed $50 million a year and will put the team in a position in which they will need to shed salaries to afford Higgins or Boyd. I can’t see them keeping both, and could even see them parting with both. Chase is locked in until after 2024, then he is going to demand over $30 million a year likely.
Veteran back Joe Mixon is also nearing the end of his time with Cincinnati, signed through 2024 and turning 27 next month. The depth chart behind him is not particularly amazing.
The team added offensive line help by signing Orlando Brown from the Chiefs. The line is improving. If they can keep Jonah Williams, who has demanded a trade, the line turns into a potential top-12 unit.
Everything is stacking up right for an amazing 2023 season, and Higgins should be locked in for his normal 70 catches, 1,000 yards, and 6/7 TDs. It’s money in the bank when you roster Higgins as your WR2.
The Depth Chart
Like with the running back situation, beyond the big three wide receivers, the depth chart drops off quickly. There is virtually no veteran, reliable options. Trent Irwin and Trent Taylor are it, and that’s not great, Bob.
The team did address receiver heavily in the draft. Charlie Jones was taken in the fourth round and is a good option but may need a little time to acclimate to the NFL game. He’s a blue-collar type of player with great hands and the ability to run after the catch. Jones had one massive season, 2022, and is a bit older prospect.
The second rookie that could provide some help is Princeton’s Andrei Iosavis. He’s a raw receiver but was impressive in the Ivy League. Iosavis is tall, strong, and plays like an alpha dog WR1 – but will need some time, several years, to likely fully realize his ceiling at this level.
How do you value a 24-year-old WR2 with uncertainty as to where he will play next year? I am curious, this is one of the more valuable players I have profiled thus far.
Check out these trades I found on the Dynasty GM Trade Browser:
The first one I found for Higgins alone, I would trade Aiyuk and a second for Higgins absolutely every time. I like Aiyuk too, but I love consistency more.
This one is similar but I am still liking the Higgins side, although I think both sides win here. Burks could be “the dude” if Tennessee opens up their offense and then you still have a second too.
Interesting one here, I would assume the Adams side is contending – and then it makes sense for both sides. I am higher on Achane than most, so I like the Adams and Achane side in a vacuum.
What would you do with this one? I feel like I want the Wilson and Higgins side regardless of team build but, man, this is a tough one. I think the Chase owner could have gotten more but don’t hate the haul either. Wilson also can be a true WR1 but uncertainty after Rodgers worries me a tiny bit. I’d still rather have Higgins and Wilson, but only by the tiniest of margins.
As I have played more and more fantasy over the years, consistency is something I value much higher for my teams. Unless you play best ball, and you are searching for those massive weeks, players like Higgins are the ones you want to have on your team and hold on to.
Even with the uncertainty of his situation, unless he ends up on the Patriots, Higgins will be a strong WR2 for fantasy and still has five to seven more seasons. He’s a good value and may never be the sexiest player on your squad. But if you want to win, Higgins should be a target for your team.
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