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Bengals' Tee Higgins not 'worried about' extension ahead of contract year, wants to stay in Cincinnati

Cincinnati Bengals receiver Tee Higgins recently executed the planned jersey switch from No. 85 to No. 5.

Some thought the jersey announcement was a precursor to the Bengals and Higgins agreeing on a long-term contract. The reality is Higgins had been planning to change jersey numbers for more than a year but decided to wait rather than pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to do it last year.

The jersey change might not indicate an extension is coming, but it's another sign Higgins will be a Bengal in 2023, at the very least.

Higgins joined The Pat McAfee Show on Thursday and said he's not fretting about his contract situation.

"Yeah, right now, I'm just preparing for the season," Higgins said. "I'm not really worried about the contract. Obviously, I want to get a deal done, but I let my agent handle that, and you know, right now, just for me getting my body right for next season."

A 2020 second-round pick out of Clemson, Higgins enters the final year of his rookie contract coming off back-to-back 1,000-plus yard seasons. In three years in Cincy, he has proven the ability to make impressive catches and is a consistent route-runner who dabbles in explosive results. He's an ideal pairing with Ja'Marr Chase and Tyler Boyd.

However, given the Bengals need to pay big money soon to quarterback Joe Burrow, there was some thought that Cincy could be convinced to trade Higgins this year. It was a notion that Bengals director of player personnel Duke Tobin rejected at the NFL Scouting Combine.

"I'm not in the business of making other teams better. I'm in the business of making the Cincinnati Bengals better. So trading Tee Higgins is not on my mind," Tobin said at the time. "That's (other teams') problem -- they want a receiver, go find your own. In my opinion, Tee Higgins is a good piece for the Cincinnati Bengals, so the trade stuff is a little ridiculous right now."

Higgins said Thursday that he appreciates Tobin's words and hopes to remain in Cincy alongside Burrow for the long haul.

"It was good to hear them say that," Higgins said. "It made me feel like they want me here, man. Hopefully, we can get the deal done."

The question is whether the Bengals -- with Burrow and eventually Chase in line for big paydays -- can afford to keep Higgins around on a massive extension. In a market where 21 receivers are making more than $15 million per year (14 for $20 million-plus), Higgins is woefully underpaid, set to make $2.993 million in 2023.

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