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With offseason program over, Tee Higgins signs franchise tender

Bengals receiver Tee Higgins has had a contradictory offseason. He wants to stay, he doesn’t want to stay. He wants to stay, he doesn’t want to stay.

Finally, there’s clarity. Sort of.

Higgins has signed his $21.8 million franchise tender. It puts him under contract for the 2024 season.

There was no specific reason to do it now, other than the offseason program ended — and he was able to miss all of it without any fines or why-aren’t-you-at-OTAs? pressure.

The two sides have until July 15 to do a multi-year deal. That’s not something the Bengals usually do with their franchise-tagged players. Typically, it’s one more year and then unrestricted free agency.

Higgins could have waited until just before the start of the regular season to show up, sign his tender, and make the full $21.8 million. However, he wouldn’t have been as ready for the season as he could have been for another contract year. Also, he ran the risk that the Bengal would have rescinded the tender and made him an unrestricted free agent — at a time when the money has been spent and the depth charts have been set. (It has happened three times before.)

Yes, he would have landed somewhere. But it would have been hard to get $21.8 million for this year, or a long-term deal anywhere close to the top of the market.

Higgins can still be traded, and he can still agitate to be traded. However, the July 15 deadline for a multi-year deal applies to all teams. If the Bengals are going to move him and if he’s going to sign a long-term deal with a new team, there’s exactly 30 days for it to happen.