New York Giants offseason pipe dream: Trade for Tee Higgins

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Tee Higgins could be a Giants trade target
FILE – Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins takes part in drills at Paul Brown Stadium, Tuesday, June 14, 2022, in Cincinnati. Bengals receiver Tee Higgins said he’s “in a good place right now” after hearing from Damar Hamlin’s mother about his improvement on Thursday morning, Jan. 5, 2023.(AP Photo/Jeff Dean, File)

We’ve reached the rampant speculation part of the NFL offseason. With two weeks until we get to watch another football game, and the vast majority of teams and fanbases beginning to think about the draft and free agency, rumors swirl about who might be available and what teams could be looking to make a big move. After a surprising 2022 season, the New York Giants are not immune from that type of optimistic speculation. 

A playoff birth and upset win over the Vikings have only given the fanbase a taste of the success that they long for. It’s also sped up the timeline for a rebuild as the team now needs to find a way to remain a fixture in the playoffs. In order to do that, general manager Joe Schoen may need to take a big swing in the offseason, and what bigger swing than a trade for Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins?

In this article, I’ll look at whether or not a trade for the 24-year-old wide receiver would be likely and, if so, why the Giants would be wise to pursue it aggressively. 


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Why Would the Bengals Trade Tee Higgins?

Let’s just start with the obvious: the Bengals don’t want to trade Higgins. Nobody wants to trade a 24-year-old coming off back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, who can do this:

However, as Schoen said in his postseason press conference, “There’s a business side to it. There’s rules that you need to operate under in terms of the salary cap.” Those rules may cause the Bengals to at least entertain the possibility of moving Tee Higgins this offseason. 

According to Over the Cap, the Bengals have $43.7 million in cap space entering this offseason. With Higgins entering the final year of his contract in 2023, the team will likely need to explore signing him to an extension. According to Spotrac, the wide receiver’s market value is $20.1 million per season, that’s a steep increase from the $2.99 million he is set to make next year. 

While you may look at the Bengals’ cap space and say that they have the room to sign Higgins to that type of deal, you also have to factor in that quarterback Joe Burrow will also be on the last year of his rookie contract next year as well. Now, the Bengals could also pick up Burrow’s 5th-year option for 2024 and kick the can down the proverbial road on signing their franchise player to an extension but that seems unlikely.

Teams tend to lock up their star players when they get a chance, as the Buffalo Bills did with Josh Allen before his 5th-year option was picked up. Since Burrow is eligible to sign his second contract this summer, the clock has begun ticking, which is what Bengals head coach Zac Taylor admitted on Monday in his postseason press conference. 

“Yeah, I think that starts now internally,” he said when asked about Burrow being eligible for an extension. “And so, again, I just wrapped up with the team today. And as you go forward, you get a chance to start talking about Joe and all the other players who are up.”

Spotrac has Burrow’s market value at $44 million per season, which would be slightly higher than Josh Allen’s six-year contract with Buffalo that pays him $258,034,000 or $43 million per season. It would be realistic to assume that Burrow would get close to $47 million per season, which would put him ahead of Kyler Murray as the second-highest-paid quarterback based on average annual value.

When you start to think of a number that high, you can see where the Bengals’ cap space situation may look different. 

Especially since Ja’Marr Chase will also be eligible for an extension in 2025. Since Spotrac puts his market value at $25.4 million per season, the Bengals could have almost $75 million tied up in two players as early as two years from now. That’s without even factoring in this year’s unrestricted free agents like Jessie Bates III, Von Bell, Hayden Hurst, Samaje Perine, and Germaine Pratt.

The Bengals could try to sign Higgins to a three-year deal like the Seahawks did with DK Metcalf and then push back the extension for Ja’Marr Chase until Higgins’ new contract expires, but any delay in signing Burrow and Chase is a risk that they may get frustrated or look to sign a lucrative deal elsewhere. 

Cincinnati won’t WANT to trade away Tee Higgins while they’re in a Super Bowl window, but, realistically, their Super Bowl window will last as long as Burrow and Chase are around, so dealing Higgins for a low-cost controllable asset doesn’t necessarily dampen their Super Bowl aspirations. 

Especially if they get a deal they can’t refuse, which the Giants would need to offer. 

Tee Higgins, celebrating with Ja'Marr Chase, could be a Giants trade target
Cincinnati Bengals’ Ja’Marr Chase (1) celebrates with Tee Higgins (85) after Chase caught a pass for a touchdown during the second half of an NFL football game against the New York Jets Sunday, Sept. 25, 2022, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Why Would the Giants Want Tee Higgins?

In order to pry Higgins away from the Bengals, the Giants would need to offer this year’s first-round pick and likely a third or fourth-round pick as well. 

One recent example we’ve seen of this type of trade was when Buffalo traded for Stefon Diggs. Since Schoen was in Buffalo’s front office at the time of the deal, it’s a useful comparison. At the time, the Buffalo Bills acquired Diggs and a 2020 seventh-round pick in exchange for a 2020 first-round pick (No. 22 overall), a 2020 fifth-round pick, a 2020 sixth-round pick, and a 2021 fourth-round pick. 

Last year, the Eagles sent a 2022 first-round pick (18th overall) and a 2022 third-round pick (101st overall) to the Titans in exchange for wide receiver AJ Brown. 

If New York were to offer a similar haul of picks to Cincinnati, including this year’s 25th overall choice, it could be tempting. Cincinnati could use that pick or their own picks in the first or second round to draft a young wide receiver who would have five years of a cost-controllable contract and have more than enough money to extend Burrow and Chase and re-tool the offensive line. 

But why would the Giants want to do that?

Well, for starters, Higgins is a wide receiver one. I know he doesn’t have the numbers to prove it because he battled injury and shared time with Chase, but Higgins is elite. He leads the NFL in contested catches since 2020, has a tremendous catch radius on his 6’4″ frame, and is one the better overall route-runners in the league. 

If you want a safety valve for Daniel Jones, you’re not going to find a better one. He would immediately makes the Giants a more intimidating offense and, if paired with Saquon Barkley, could give Brian Daboll two elite weapons to keep defenses honest. 

Since the best free agent wide receiver this year is either Allen Lazard, DJ Chark, or JuJu Smith-Schuster, it’s likely that New York’s quest for a true number one receiver would either need to come via trade or the draft. However, relying on a rookie wide receiver picked at 25th overall to be a difference-maker for a playoff team is a tall task. 


Will the Trade Happen?

I mean, it’s called a pipe dream because it’s just that. I do think the Bengals will entertain offers for Higgins, but I think there’s a good chance he agrees to take a short-term deal to stay with Burrow and Chase for a few more years. 

I’m also not convinced Joe Schoen believes he needs to mortgage the future for a number-one wide receiver. At his end-of-season press conference, he said, “I know a number one wide receiver can be important, but there’s some number one wide receivers that are home right now. You can go through this past weekend; you can go through a couple of weekends ago in the playoffs. A number one receiver doesn’t guarantee you anything.”

“I think it’s important that we continue to build the team,” he added. “There’s multiple positions where we want to upgrade throughout the offseason. So, yeah, I’d love to have a number-one wide receiver, but we’ve got to place value on everything we do, and if it makes sense, that’s something we’ll look to do.”  

That doesn’t sound like somebody willing to make a big splash on a trade for a wide receiver. However, depending on how contract negotiations go with Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley, the Giants may find themselves with extra cash or motivation to make a play for a big-play weapon. 

For more on the Giants, visit AMNY Sports