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Joe Burrow Gets His Top Weapons For 2024 With Tee Tagged

WR Tee Higgins celebrates a touchdown during the Ravens-Bengals game in Week 2 of the 2023 season.
WR Tee Higgins celebrates a touchdown during the Ravens-Bengals game in Week 2 of the 2023 season.

The Bengals all but guaranteed quarterback Joe Burrow his top two weapons for the upcoming season when they put the franchise tag on free-agent wide receiver Tee Higgins with a one-year, $21.8 million deal.

As three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase heads into his fourth season approaching similar salary figures, the Bengals tagged Higgins in an effort to keep them together for a fourth straight year as slot receiver Tyler Boyd heads into free agency.

Since they joined forces in 2021, when Chase was a rookie and Higgins was in his second season, they have become the franchise's top two postseason receivers. They both had 1,000-yard seasons in 2021 and 2022 to help lead the Bengals to the AFC title games.

"We came in together," says wide receivers coach Troy Walters of Higgins' 2020 rookie season. "I'd like to see him back for a few more years. That's my preference. He still has room to grow. Last year was kind of a disappointment for him with the injuries. I still think we have things to accomplish.

"Tee and Ja'Marr work so well together and complement each other. They love being around each other. Let's go and try and win a championship. They complement each other on the field, off the field. In my eyes they're both No. 1 receivers, but yet they play unselfishly and they care about each other. Hopefully, everything takes care of itself."

The 6-4 Higgins missed time in 2023 but was still a towering factor. With the Bengals needing a win to stay alive in the December playoff chase, he bookended the fourth quarter with touchdowns to set up the come-from-behind overtime win over the Vikings that included a leaping catch at the goal line complete with a blind behind-the-back sweep of the ball over the pylon for the tying score with 39 seconds left.

"That'd be one of the better ones I've seen just because it was just a pure freak physical play," said Bengals offensive coordinator Brian Callahan, now the Titans head coach. "I can't even move my arm that far to spin back and reach the ball across. I mean that was just one of those totally freakish plays. I mean it was unbelievable. I'll remember that one for a long time, just for the sheer physical freakiness of it all. Guys don't make plays like that very often."

When the Bengals played in Pittsburgh the next week, Higgins had 140 yards to become the first Bengal ever to have multiple 140-yard games against the Steelers.

With 3,684 career yards on 257 catches, it has taken Higgins, 25, just 56 games to become the sixth Bengals wide receiver to reach 3,600 yards and 250 catches in this century.

According to Pro Football Reference, his success percentage of 58.6 is the highest in Bengals history among receivers with at least 16 catches. Success is gauged as gaining 40% of the required yards on first down, 60% on second down, and 100% on third and fourth downs.

"He's a big kid. Long. He's fluid. He can run the entire route tree," Walters says. "When the ball's up for a 50-50, he'll go up and high point it and make plays. Special catches, at a special time."

Higgins, who has to sign the deal in order to practice, has until July 15 to reach a long-term deal with the Bengals.

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