Cincinnati Bengals Met With Bad News At Start Of OTAs

Cincinnati Bengals
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Cincinnati Bengals began organized team activities on Tuesday, but there was a big problem: neither of their top two wide receivers were present.

Both Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins were absent from the start of OTAs, as both star pass-catchers are seeking new contracts.

Before Bengals fans go into complete panic mode, it should be noted that these are voluntary workouts. Neither Chase nor Higgins have to be there, and a handful of notable players around the NFL are choosing not to attend.

Of course, it is a bit unsettling.

Chase became eligible for a contract extension this offseason and will probably be a priority for Cincinnati heading into 2024.

The 24-year-old is coming off of a 2023 campaign in which he hauled in 100 receptions for 1,216 yards and seven touchdowns en route to his third straight Pro Bowl appearance.

Chase, who played his collegiate football at LSU and was a teammate of Joe Burrow, was selected by the Bengals with the fifth overall pick of the 2021 NFL Draft.

He hit the ground running during his rookie year, catching 81 passes for 1,455 yards and 13 scores and helping Cincinnati reach the Super Bowl.

Meanwhile, Higgins was selected by Cincy in the second round of the 2020 draft.

Higgins’ situation is a bit different from Chase’s, as the Bengals slapped a franchise tag on him to prevent him from reaching free agency earlier this offseason. He has not yet signed his franchise tender, which means he isn’t even allowed to participate in offseason activities.

The star wide out requested a trade, although it doesn’t look like Cincinnati will be moving him.

Not yet, anyway.

Higgins had a disappointing 2023, playing in just 12 games due to injuries and finishing with 42 catches for 656 yards and five touchdowns. He logged back-to-back 1,000-yard campaigns in 2021 and 2022.

Cincy has until mid-July to reach a long-term agreement with the Clemson product.

Based on the fact that the Bengals are already paying Burrow $55 million annually and will almost surely have to pay Chase big bucks, as well, Higgins may be playing out his final days in Cincinnati.

Chance are, Higgins will ultimately sign his franchise tender and spend one more season with the Bengals before testing the free-agent market next March.

Cincinnati went 9-8 and missed the playoffs this past year.

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