The Cincinnati Bengals slapped a franchise tag on wide receiver Tee Higgins earlier this offseason, preventing him from reaching free agency. That apparently peeved Higgins, who proceeded to request a trade.

That was nearly three months ago, and no progress has been made on either side.

Sources say that Higgins and the Bengals have not talked about a new contract in over a year, via Ben Baby of ESPN.

Higgins has yet to sign his $21.8 million franchise tender and is not eligible to participate in organized team activities as a result. He is certainly well aware of Cincinnati's history with applying the franchise tag. The organization has done it three times since 2013, and not once has it ended in a long-term agreement.

The Bengals have until mid-July to strike a pact with Higgins on a fresh contract, but based on how things are looking at the current point in time, it doesn't seem like that is going to happen.

Should the Bengals trade Tee Higgins?

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins (5) at the line of scrimmage against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the second quarter at Acrisure Stadium.
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Just because Higgins asked to be dealt does not mean the Bengals need to oblige. As a matter of fact, Higgins sort of retracted his trade request later on in the offseason and indicated that he intends to play for Cincinnati in 2024.

More than likely, that will end up being the case.

The Bengals are still trying to win a Super Bowl, and jettisoning Higgins would obviously be counterproductive under those circumstances. Higgins is Cincy's No. 2 receiver behind Ja'Marr Chase and logged back-to-back 1,000-yard campaigns in 2021 and 2022.

Higgins is coming off of a disappointing 2023 season in which he caught just 42 passes for 656 yards and five touchdowns, but he missed five games due to injuries.

The problem for Cincinnati is that Chase also became eligible for an extension this offseason, and the Bengals will almost certainly prioritize him over Higgins. Chase has been skipping voluntary workouts, but he at least two years remaining on his deal.

The chances of the Bengals retaining both Chase and Higgins on lucrative contracts seem slim. They are already paying quarterback Joe Burrow $55 million annually, and you have to figure that Chase will land a deal worth north of $30 million per year based on the new contracts that receivers like A.J. Brown and Amon-Ra St. Brown have landed this offseason.

Plus, Higgins may actually want to go elsewhere where he can be a No. 1 receiver. So long as Cincinnati keeps Chase for the long haul, that isn't happening with the Bengals.

Should Cincy decide to place Higgins on the trade block, he would have no shortage of suitors. He is just 25 years old, and at 6-foot-4 and around 220 pounds, he is a terrific red-zone target. He hasn't gotten the opportunity to fully display that in Cincinnati, topping out at seven touchdowns in 2022. However, there is no question he has double-digit touchdown potential.

All of that being said, the most probable outcome is the Bengals riding it out with Higgins for one more season and trying to win a championship with this core. Then, they can revisit the situation with Higgins next March, which would almost certainly result in the star pass-catcher departing via free agency.