The AFC and NFC championship games on Sunday served as a reminder of what it takes to reach the pinnacle of NFL achievement. Everything Bears general manager Ryan Poles has to discover as his rebuilding efforts get underway.
You may refer to the Eagles’ offensive line’s strength or their defensive front’s tenacity. Consider the 49ers’ fierce and unyielding defence or their arsenal of offensive weapons, which allows for devastating adaptability and multiplicity.
The trenches on both sides of the ball must be repaired by the Bears. That needs to be the first objective this offseason. However, it was impossible to watch Sunday’s games without notice that three of the four teams contending for a Super Bowl spot featured numerous excellent pass catchers. The fourth team, the Kansas City Chiefs, possesses one of the finest tight ends in NFL history as well as the league’s top quarterback.
This offseason, the Bears should be looking for at least one top-tier pass-catcher. In truth, they need at least two more guys who can win one-on-one battles and make quarterback Justin Fields’ job simpler.
Tee Higgins, a wide receiver with the Cincinnati Bengals, has been mentioned on Bears Twitter for quite some time. The fantasy is that Higgins, who is under contract until 2024, would beg the Bengals to move him away from quarterback Joe Burrow and a team that has gone to back-to-back AFC championship games, and the Bengals, delirious, will send him to the Bears.
It’s a fantastic dream. Higgins is an outstanding jump-ball receiver who would help Darnell Mooney open up the field and ease the pressure on Chase Claypool.
But I don’t envision a scenario in which the Bengals blow their Super Bowl chances by trading one of their three key players to Chicago.
Let’s go through the specifics.
Higgins’ contract runs until next season. I believe the Bengals will negotiate on contract extensions for both him and Burrow this summer. Ja’Marr Chase’s rookie contract includes two seasons and a fifth-year option.
Burrow still has one season and a fifth-year option remaining on his rookie contract, so the Bengals are in a good position to retain all three in Cincinnati without eviscerating their cap for multiple years.
It’s safe to assume that the Bengals will sign a mega-contract agreement with Burrow this summer. If they plan it as the Chiefs did with Patrick Mahomes and the Bills did with Josh Allen, Burrow’s big stats won’t start coming in until the 2025 season. Chase’s big money won’t start rolling in until the 2026 season, if all goes as planned.
That should allow the Bengals to extend Higgins and have a big portion of his salary guaranteed upon signing, lowering the initial cost charge. The 49ers signed Deebo Samuel to a three-year, $58 million contract deal with a $24 million signing bonus this summer. With the signing bonus, Samuel’s cap charge for 2023, the first year of the agreement, was just $8.6 million, with a basic salary of $1 million.
Given that Higgins, Burrow, and Chase all have one-year contracts, the Bengals should be able to stretch it out sufficiently to keep all three in the fold while reloading the squad around them. The Bengals also don’t have a lot of money on the books right now, so hard financial considerations will most likely centre on players like safety Jessie Bates, running back Joe Mixon, wide receiver Tyler Boyd, and edge rusher Trey Hendrickson.
“I’d love to spend some time with Joe (Burrow).” “Higgins said to reporters. “He’s a wonderful person as well as a fantastic quarterback. We’ve grown up pretty close, but you know how the league works. But I still have a year left on my contract, so we’ll see.”
That “we’ll see” may seem to be enough to keep the dream alive, but it’s just Higgins being where his feet are, aware that things might always change.
But he’d have to be willing to change. He’d have to want to leave Burrow, Chase, and a club that seems poised to compete for Super Bowls for the next 15 years, according to Burrow. The Bengals would also have to agree to part with an important piece of their success in exchange for a draught selection and the idea that they can locate another Tee Higgins.
Even if Higgins wanted out, which there is no evidence of, the Bengals could just do what the 49ers did with Samuel last summer. Samuel wanted a trade, the 49ers rejected, stared him down, knowing they had contract power, and eventually came to an agreement. The fact that the Bengals are now a consistent Super Bowl contender that Higgins has a solid relationship and friendship with Burrow makes a request all the more improbable.
While the Bengals are renowned for their economical nature, they also aim to maintain their indigenous talent. There’s no reason to expect Higgins will play anyplace other than Cincinnati for the next several years as long as the Bengals are willing to pay him.