NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at Pittsburgh Steelers

March 5, there were nine NFL players who were officially slapped with some sort of tag, whether that be franchise tag or transition tag. As of April 12, just two remain.

Kansas City Chiefs cornerback L'Jarius Sneed was traded to the Tennessee Titans and signed a lucrative four-year deal with his new team while Carolina Panthers pass rusher Brian Burns has a similar story, as he was dealt to the New York Giants and signed a monster contract. Baltimore Ravens defensive tackle Justin Madubuike received a new four-year deal from his team, as did Chicago Bears cornerback Jaylon Johnson. Indianapolis Colts wideout Michael Pittman Jr. signed a three-year deal with the team that selected him in the second round back in 2020, and Jacksonville Jaguars pass rusher Josh Allen signed a five-year extension just this past week. New England Patriots defensive back Kyle Dugger, who was the lone player to receive the transition tag this offseason, signed a four-year extension as well. 

The only two players who remain on the tag without any long-term security are Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins and Tampa Bay Buccaneers safety Antoine Winfield Jr. The Bengals and Bucs have until July 15 to sign these players to new deals, or they will be locked in on the franchise tag for 2024.

What will happen with these two playmakers? Let's take a look. 

Tee Higgins
CIN • WR • #5
REC YDs656
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Higgins recorded back-to-back 1,000-yard receiving campaigns in 2021 and 2022, but played in a career-low 12 games in 2023 due to rib and hamstring injuries. His 3,684 career receiving yards rank fourth-most among those in the 2020 class, and sixth-most through four NFL seasons in Bengals franchise history.

Higgins is one of the best No. 2 wideouts in the league, but his potential is more than just that. Bengals head coach Zac Taylor said that keeping Higgins in the fold is Cincy's best chance at winning a Super Bowl, so maybe it wasn't the biggest surprise he was tagged and unable to explore free agency. But Higgins wants his money.

On March 11, Higgins requested a trade. If Higgins were available, there would surely be plenty of interest in him. Then there's the financial aspect of this situation. How likely is it that the Bengals can afford to pay Higgins premier money after signing Joe Burrow to a five-year, $275 million contract, and with Ja'Marr Chase looking for an extension as well?

Prediction: Higgins plays on the one-year $21.8 million tag
Also keep an eye on: A potential trade during the 2024 NFL Draft

The Buccaneers selected the scrappy defensive back out of Minnesota in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft, and it was a great pick. Winfield received a vote for Defensive Rookie of the Year while winning the Super Bowl in his first NFL season, made the Pro Bowl in his second season and earned a First Team All-Pro nod in 2023 after putting together a career campaign in a contract year. Winfield recorded 122 combined tackles, eight QB hits, six forced fumbles, 12 passes defended and three interceptions in 17 games played, making him the only player over the last 25 seasons to record 100+ tackles, 5+ forced fumbles, 5.0 sacks and 10 passes defended in a single season. Remarkable. Stat-sheet stuffer.

Per ESPN, Winfield and the Bucs are working toward a deal that will make him the NFL's highest-paid safety. If you were curious, Derwin James of the Los Angeles Chargers currently holds that title at $19 million per year. It sounds like that new contract could come very soon. 

Prediction: Winfield signs a four-year, $76.4 million deal