The Cincinnati Bengals are still in the midst of dealing with the uncertain future of wide receiver Tee Higgins. The star wideout requested a trade that he has yet to receive as the team hopes it can figure out a way to keep him in the fold.

The Bengals gave Higgins the franchise tag as he comes off his rookie contract. Their salary cap sheet is looking busier than in past years and is only going to keep going that way. Superstar wideout Ja'Marr Chase is eligible for an extension but he has two more years left, so his situation is not the most urgent. He is certain to get his big contract when the time comes, earning a lucrative new deal by being one of the best wideouts in the league from the very beginning.

Higgins, on the other hand, is about to miss out on organized team activities since he is not expected to sign his franchise tender, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.

Schefter reports that Higgins “still has not signed his franchise tender and is not expected to by next week, per source. This would make him ineligible to report back to the Bengals in time for their organized team activities next week. Higgins cannot rejoin the team until he signs.”

The Bengals, who still are not willing to trade the 25-year-old star, will have to start preparations for next season without one of their top playmakers.

Tee Higgins not expected to be eligible for Bengals' OTAs

Before injuries cut into roughly a quarter of his 2023 season, Higgins posted back-to-back seasons that surpassed 1,000 receiving yards and 70 receptions and scored 13 touchdowns over those two campaigns (six in the first, seven in the next). Only 15 other players have posted a 70-1,000-6 season twice in the past three seasons and Higgins missed out on the chance to join the six others that have done so in each of the past three seasons, including Chase.

The Bengals have one of the very best wide receiver tandems in the league but have been searching for options to keep both studs together. Only teams have two wide receivers signed to contracts worth $20 million per year: the Philadelphia Eagles (A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Mike Evans and Chris Godwin). The Miami Dolphins and San Francisco 49ers have youngsters in Jaylen Waddle and Brandon Aiyuk, the latter of whom is from Higgins' draft class, who will be commanding big-time extensions for the future, too.

With still plenty of time before even training camp begins, the Bengals do have time to resolve the situation. Plenty of teams could use his services and might be willing to pony up for a potentially great No. 1 option. But it will only get harder as time goes on. Plus, moving on from Higgins, even if they recoup some value in a trade, would be tough to work around.

The Bengals lost Tyler Boyd to free agency to the Tennessee Titans but did add a solid pass-catching tight end in Mike Gesicki and draft Alabama wideout Jermaine Burton in the third round of last month's draft. Their identity, though, is built around the powerful offense they have with Joe Burrow and his two top-notch talents lining up on the outside. Deciding how to keep Tee Higgins in the black and orange stripes is a massive decision for the front office.