There are no consolation prizes awarded at the end of the NFL regular season, but fans have to be pleased with the fight their Cincinnati Bengals displayed after struggling early and being forced to endure significant injuries. But missing the playoffs makes it more unsettling to deal with their impending roster decisions.

Near or at the top of that list is wide receiver Tee Higgins, who will be a free agent unless Cincinnati places the franchise tag on him this offseason. Important members of the team are weighing in on this potential dilemma.

“I expect Tee to be back,” Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow said, per Andrew Siciliano. “We all expect Tee to be back. That's the sentiment we all have in the locker room.” Head coach Zac Taylor did not make quite as firm a declaration as his QB but did indirectly express the young WR's value to the team. “It's hard to imagine life without Tee Higgins.”

Cincy's offensive trio of Burrow, Ja'Marr Chase and Higgins has been integral to the franchise's recent success, which includes a Super Bowl appearance in 2022. Retaining all three of them long-term is difficult to comprehend, however.

Burrow has already been locked-up, with Chase expected to sign a contract extension sometime soon as well. The Bengals can delay the inevitable by tagging Tee Higgins, but his future will have to eventually be addressed.

After an uneven, injury-affected season that consisted of 76 receptions for 656 yards and five touchdowns, the 24-year-old could be content with having another year on a high-powered offense to improve his market value. Regardless of how this shakes out, it is clear that Higgins holds a special place in the Bengals locker room.