The Dallas Cowboys have an opportunity this offseason to upgrade the offense with a trade for a dangerous Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver.
The Cowboys got a step further in the hunt for a Super Bowl during the 2022 season, winning a playoff game. But the offense’s struggles against the San Francisco 49ers during the Divisional Round solidified the need for offensive reinforcements. Enter Tee Higgins.
Higgins has been a top performer in the NFL since arriving in Cincinnati, becoming the second part of a dangerous tandem with fellow Bengals WR Ja’Marr Chase. However, Cincinnati has big contracts coming up for Chase, Higgins and quarterback Joe Burrow and something has to give.
Chase is arguably the best receiver in the NFL, and Burrow is the cornerpiece of that team. Higgins could be the odd man out, and that’s where the Cowboys can take advantage.
Granted, a move for Higgins could be expensive. But in terms of taking the offense where it needs to go, his price could still provide immense value as the 24-year-old enters his prime.
Higgins Performing Well Opposite of Chase
While Chase is the primary star of the Cincinnati offense with 32 touchdowns in 35 total games, Higgins deserve just as much credit for his steady production. The 6’4″ receiver offers a different quality to Chase’s speed and lateral quickness, and one the Cowboys could use.
PFR shows that Higgins has averaged about 1,010 receiving yards in each of his three NFL regular seasons, chipping in 19 touchdowns to boot. The former Clemson star has also averaged a healthy 14.1 yards per catch in the league, solidifying his place as a downfield threat.
His playoff stats in the Bengals’ run to the Super Bowl last year are equally impressive. In four games, Higgins had 18 total catches for 309 receiving yards and two touchdowns. Again, he’s doing this while splitting attention with names like Chase and running back Joe Mixon.
The only hangup for Higgins is his drops. The Bengals star has 21 drops in three NFL seasons, meaning he has dropped 6.4% of his targets in the past three years. Higgins had eight drops in 2022.
How Cowboys Can Afford Higgins
First and foremost: the Cowboys only have $1.84 million in cap space in 2023 according to Spotrac. Small roster moves can create enough space for Higgins’ $2.76 million cap hit in 2023, but a move for Higgins would require Dallas to hand him a long-term contract.
One of the most crucial names when considering a move for Higgins is wide receiver Michael Gallup. After a promising first three years with the Cowboys, Dallas is now in a tough spot with the 26-year-old as he has dealt with an ACL injury and a serious dip in production over the past two regular seasons.
In that time, Gallup has caught 74 passes for 869 receiving yards and six touchdowns in 23 games. That’s an average of 11.7 yards per catch, and just 37.8 yards per game.
For a player set to be a $13.82 million cap hit, the value just doesn’t sync up, but Gallup is still due $19 million in guaranteed money heading into 2023. Fortunately, there is a situation where both Gallup and Higgins both play for the Cowboys next season rather than taking a big financial loss on Gallup.
Dallas could trade for Higgins and sign him to a deal that guarantees money long-term but keeps his 2023 cost close to his current rookie deal cost. Then, Gallup can stick around for 2023 and his dead money total would drop $13 million in the 2024 offseason, where Dallas can cut him or trade him and get a far better deal.
The final detail of the trade would be what Dallas has to trade for Higgins. It would likely take a high pick or sizable package, maybe even the Cowboys’ first-round pick in 2023. However, getting a proven, top-tier receiver for anywhere in that price range is absolutely worth the value.
At this stage in the Cowboys’ team-building, Dallas should take clear improvements to the squad rather than upside and potential.