Tee Higgins franchise tag news is no big loss for the NY Jets

Tee Higgins wasn't an ideal Jets target anyway

Tee Higgins
Tee Higgins / Jeff Dean/GettyImages

The NY Jets are expected to be in the market for a big-name wide receiver this offseason, and few bigger names have been connected to them than Cincinnati Bengals star Tee Higgins.

The former second-round pick was slated to be a free agent this offseason and was expected to be among the most coveted players on the open market. That was until the Bengals decided to place the franchise tag on him on Friday.

The tag value is expected to be around $21.8 million, making Higgins one of the highest-paid wide receivers in football entering the 2024 season. The saga isn't over yet, though, as the Bengals could still very well find a trade partner.

That trade partner shouldn't be the Jets, however. Higgins was already a deeply flawed target for the Jets this offseason — this tag solidifies the notion that the team should explore other options.

The NY Jets should stay away from Tee Higgins

There's a reason Higgins is one of the hottest commodities on the trade market this offseason. The former Clemson star has recorded 1,000-yard campaigns in two of the last three seasons and has been an integral part in the Bengals' high-powered offense.

Higgins just turned 25 years old in January and has reportedly been hoping to join a team where he can be a true No. 1 receiver. The Bengals, with Ja'Marr Chase, don't offer him that possibility.

That said, Higgins never should've been a top target for the Jets. There are some major red flags to his game that, when combined with his absurd price tag, make him less than appealing.

Higgins has had drop issues throughout his career. He's recorded seven or more drops in three of his four NFL seasons and finished with a lowly 12.5 percent drop rate in 2023 — second-worst among all wide receivers with at least 70 targets.

He's also coming off the worst season of his career, in which he appeared in 12 games, finishing with just 42 catches for 656 yards and five touchdowns. Higgins battled injuries, and even when healthy, he didn't perform up to his previous standard.

Higgins' contested catch rate dropped from an excellent 61.5 percent in 2022 to an abysmal 34.8 percent in 2023. Considering that contested catches are supposed to be one of his strong suits, that's far from ideal.

This isn't to say that Higgins is a bad player — far from it. But it's hard to argue that Higgins, at $21-23 million per year on a long-term contract, would be better value than someone like Calvin Ridley at $17-18 million per year.

Ridley might even be the better player, and although he's a few years older, his price tag is significantly lower. Now that Higgins has been tagged, any team looking to acquire him will also need to give up assets.

The Jets don't have the draft capital or the financial flexibility to pull off a move for Higgins without handicapping the organization in other ways.

The Jets can instead shift their focus to players like Ridley or even Mike Evans. Let some other team trade significant assets to pay him like a top-five wide receiver. That team shouldn't be the Jets.