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Ja'Marr Chase, Tee Higgins Skip Bengals' Voluntary OTAs amid Contract Rumors

Adam Wells

As the Cincinnati Bengals begin organized team activities Tuesday, they will do so without Ja'Marr Chase and Tee Higgins.

ESPN's Adam Schefter noted the Bengals' star receiver duo was not present on the first day of voluntary OTAs as both players seek new contracts.

Higgins' contract situation has been well-documented this offseason. The Bengals used the franchise tag, which will guarantee him $21.8 million, to keep him from becoming a free agent.

Given how quickly Cincinnati applied the tag—it was announced on Feb. 26, well ahead of the March 5 deadline to do so—it seemed to suggest the two sides weren't close to a long-term deal.

Per Kelsey Conway of the Cincinnati Enquirer, one recent offer from the Bengals "never approached" $20 million per season, and it was so low that Higgins' representatives didn't bother to discuss guaranteed money with the club.

Higgins has requested a trade from the Bengals but also acknowledged he anticipates playing for the team in 2024 before becoming a free agent next offseason.

Conway reported on April 29 that Higgins was seeking a deal similar to the three-year, $70 million contract Michael Pittman Jr. signed with the Indianapolis Colts this offseason.

Chase's deal comes with less urgency because he has two years remaining on his rookie contract. This offseason is the first time he's eligible to sign a long-term extension.

One potential complicating factor for the Bengals is Chase has suggested he wants to wait until after Justin Jefferson signs his next contract.

Schefter said last week on SportsCenter that whenever Jefferson eventually signs a new deal with the Minnesota Vikings, it will make him the highest-paid non-quarterback in the NFL.

San Francisco 49ers star Nick Bosa is currently the highest-paid non-quarterback after signing a five-year, $170 million extension last September.

Considering this is only the voluntary portion of the offseason activities, the Bengals don't have to be overly concerned that neither player is participating.

The next big event on the offseason calendar for the Bengals is mandatory minicamp from June 11-13. If Chase decides to skip that, then there might be the possibility of a holdout by the time training camp starts in July.

Higgins' situation is a little more complicated because he hasn't signed the franchise tender. The Bengals could receive a trade offer between now and the start of the season that's too good to pass up.

In their first two seasons as teammates in 2021 and 2022, Chase and Higgins both surpassed the 1,000-yard mark and combined for 35 touchdown receptions.

Injuries limited Higgins to 12 games last season, but he still averaged a career-high 15.6 yards per reception. Chase led the Bengals with 1,216 receiving yards and seven touchdowns.


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