The 2023 season was a disappointment for the Cincinnati Bengals. After two straight seasons of winning the AFC North division, they fell all the way to fourth with an 8-8 record. But the Bengals should be back in the playoff mix in 2024, especially when they're bringing back some of the team's most important players, including 25-year old wide receiver Tee Higgins.

According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, the Bengals have already informed Higgins that they are bringing him back in 2024 via the franchise tag. The franchise tag would pay the star wideout around $21.8 million, although this distinction should give Cincinnati some time to figure out a long-term contract extension with the 25-year old.

Bringing Tee Higgins back was always going to be a huge part of the Bengals' offseason plans. Star quarterback Joe Burrow's five-year contract extension kicks in at the start of next season, and making sure that Burrow had his favorite receiving weapons around once he returns from injury was crucial in their bid to return to their level of play in 2021 and 2022.

As for Higgins, the 25-year old wide receiver didn't have the best of 2023 seasons, although that mostly came as a result of his battle with injuries. After playing in an average of 15.3 games for his first three seasons in the NFL, the Bengals wideout played in just 12 in 2023. Nonetheless, he put up career-best numbers in the yards after catch department, making him one of the most lethal downfield weapons in the league.

From a long-term perspective, it might be difficult for the Bengals to keep all of their most dangerous weapons at wideout; both Tee Higgins and Ja'Marr Chase are due for huge extensions, and the amount of cap Cincinnati would have to tie up on those two may not be the most ideal allocation of resources.

But for 2024, the Bengals are looking to give Joe Burrow the best chance to win. Burrow, after all, has expressed his desire for Higgins to stay with the team for the long haul, with Higgins reciprocating the sentiment. Using the franchise tag on Higgins at least signals that the Bengals view him as one of the team's cornerstones.