The New England Patriots will need to add a weapon or two to help Mac Jones in 2023, especially with Jakobi Meyers likely to leave in free agency. If they pursue a trade for a wide receiver, one name they could inquire about is Cincinnati Bengals star Tee Higgins.
Higgins is entering the final year of his rookie contract. As productive as the 2020 second-rounder has been, the Bengals may have to move on as they have a long list of players due for big paydays. It seems unlikely they will be able to sign Higgins to the long-term extension he's looking for.
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So, what would a potential trade look like?
Pro Football Focus estimates it would take a 2023 first-round draft pick and a 2024 fourth-rounder to acquire Higgins this offseason. On Tuesday's Early Edition, WEEI's Khari Thompson and the Boston Herald's Andrew Callahan debated whether the Patriots should consider that deal.
"If you make me say, I'm saying yes," Thompson said. "Here's why. I think that ultimately, whoever you pick in the first round -- I mean, yeah, you could select a tackle, you could select another receiver, there are a number of different ways you can go. None of those guys are going to be as good as Tee Higgins. At least not in my opinion. And then you can recoup a Day 3 pick later on if you want and then trade down. There are ways to do that.
"Now the question is, it's not just about the draft capital. It's going to be about paying the guy. And to me, that's a guy you pay. You pay Tee Higgins. Because I think he was, before Ja'Marr Chase got there, the kind of guy you could look at and say that is an ascending talent at wide receiver. The only reason he's not thought of quite that highly is because Ja'Marr Chase plays for his team and Ja'Marr Chase is awesome."
Callahan believes the price to keep Higgins in New England, on top of the draft capital to acquire him, would be too steep.
"All good points, I'm saying no," Callahan said. "And it's partly because of what you brought up. You look at the draft capital first and foremost, then it's the money you're paying him. And as soon as you sign him, because Tee Higgins is in the final year of his contract, his agent goes 'OK, if he's staying, this is the deal that we're signing. It's $ 25 million per year.' They tie in guarantees, that eats into your cap now, in 2024, in 2025 when the cap might be close to $ 300 million. And for them, you lose leverage.
"If you trade, however, for someone like Keenan Allen or DeAndre Hopkins, or in this age group Jerry Jeudy, that's two years of team control with money declining in certain circumstances where it fits the window for Mac Jones. You love Tee Higgins, he's a great player, you would want to pay him. I just don't think the timing is right for the Patriots considering the draft equity and the money."
Higgins tallied 74 catches for 1,029 yards and seven touchdowns in 2022. The 24-year-old would immediately upgrade the Patriots offense as Jones' clear No. 1 option in the passing game. But with other question marks on the roster, particularly on the offensive line, it's certainly up for debate whether he'd be worth that hefty price tag.
You can watch the full "Early Edition" discussion in the video above.