Bears Insider

King thinks Bears should enter 'Tee derby' if Bengals trade WR

Bears Insider
Tee Higgins

PHOENIX -- Everyone knows the Bears need to find quarterback Justin Fields a true No. 1 wide receiver.

Plenty of names will be bandied about this offseason as potential trade targets. DeAndre Hopkins almost certainly will be available. Keenan Allen might hit the open market. No one knows what the future holds for Mike Evans now that Tom Brady is retired.

But one name is clearly head and shoulder above the rest on a potential Bears offseason wishlist: Tee Higgins.

The Cincinnati Bengals star receiver is under contract for one more season but is eligible to sign an extension this offseason. Higgins loves playing with quarterback Joe Burrow and fellow young star wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase. The contracts of all three line up so that, in theory, the Bengals can afford to extend each one and structure the contracts to ensure they aren't underwater at any point.

I've written extensively about why I don't believe the Bengals will look to trade Higgins even if they can't get an extension done this offseason.

But NBC Sports NFL Insider Peter King isn't ruling that out. In fact, he isn't sure how the Bengals can keep Higgins at the rate the receiver will demand.

“The Bengals might not want to trade Tee Higgins," King told NBC Sports Chicago on Tuesday at Radio Row before Super Bowl LVII. "But they also might not have a lot of great choices because – I think one of the things in football today that people don’t think enough about is that, so Mike Brown, I covered the Bengals my first year covering the NFL in 1984. Not a lot has changed, relatively speaking. They are a family-run business in all ways, and they don’t have a lot of dough.


"They are going to have to find $175 million to put in escrow for Joe Burrow’s contract this offseason. That’s obviously not going to be easy. Then you have to say, ‘How exactly are they going to pay Tee Higgins a long-term deal?’ Even if you could do a bridge this year. Even if he could last one more year, I just don’t know how you’re going to pay Tee Higgins market value when you have to pay Joe Burrow. He’s one I would look at."

While Hopkins likely will be available, King thinks it would be in the best interest of the Bears to look at a younger wide receiver than making a deal for the short-term boost of a Hopkins add.

“I think there’s a couple of other players. The one I would look at right now that interests me because I just don’t think you know what the future holds is what is going to happen with DeAndre Hopkins and the Cardinals," King continued. "I think if I were a team, DeAndre Hopkins still has two great years left in him. I don’t know if I were the Bears if I would be that interested because you are building for the long term. I’d much rather get involved in the Tee Higgins derby than the DeAndre Hopkins one."

With around $100 million in salary cap space and the No. 1 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, Bears general manager Ryan Poles has the assets at his disposal to improve the talent around Fields heading into a critical third season.

This offseason will give us our first look at how Poles will operate as the Bears' general manager. While no one knows exactly how he will attack the next step of the rebuild process, King believes a look at who Poles worked under lends some insight.

"He worked under Scott Pioli, John Dorsey, and then Brett Veach," King said. "There's a couple of commonalities through all three of those people. Always, always, always build both of your lines. ... When you look at the way football is played today, I think Ryan Poles understands that 'OK, I'm going to build depth on both lines, and the one other thing I'm going to do is I'm going to surround my quarterback with enough weapons to make him be really good.'

"My gut feeling is that Ryan Poles, I think he's going to look at two positions aggressively. One is wide receiver and the other is various spots on the offensive line."

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Fields took a big leap forward in Year 2. He became just the third quarterback in NFL history to rush for over 1,000 yards in a single season. He still has a lot of work to do as a passer, but King sees no reason the Bears should think about looking to replace Fields as their rebuild reaches its next stage.


"The road in the NFL is littered with so many teams who gave up on quarterbacks early," King said. "If you look back a couple generations, Terry Bradshaw failed about 50 times before finally he became one of the great quarterbacks ever. My whole thing is I've seen enough out of Justin Fields to know that I want him to be my quarterback for the next few years. If I were the Bears, I do not enter this season saying if he's mediocre, it's over. ... I saw enough good things from Justin Fields, and when I say good things, I don't think Justin Fields wants to rush for 1,100 yards. I think Justin Fields wants to get Mooney, Claypool, and two young receivers, right now, and he wants to go away with them for a month, three weeks, and give them a legitimate chance to enter this season with some chemistry, knowing they have a chance to win and succeed.

"First of all, I definitely wouldn't be thinking about trading him, definitely. And I wouldn't be thinking that it's this year or we got to move on."

Fields showed immense growth this past season. He cleaned up his mechanics, took ownership of the team and offense, and became one of the most electric playmakers in the NFL.

He has done more than enough to show Poles that he's the guy the Bears should build around.

Now the hope is that an elite No. 1 receiver -- whether it be Higgins or someone else -- is one of the pieces Poles can add around Fields this offseason.

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