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Duke Tobin says Bengals 'want Tee Higgins back' but 'we'll see what happens' 

During last year's NFL Scouting Combine, Cincinnati Bengals director of player personnel, Duke Tobin, declared teams should "go find your own" Tee Higgins.

A year later, he could be preparing to find his own Higgins replacement.

Tobin's tune was markedly different when asked about the pending free-agent receiver Tuesday at the Reese's Senior Bowl in Mobile, Al.

"Last year, Tee Higgins was under contract to us," Tobin said via Kelsey Conway of the Cincinnati Enquirer. "He was a guy that we drafted for that reason, to be a contributor for us. He's not under contract now, so we're going to have to work through how to do that and if it's possible and we'll have to go through the gymnastics of that. So it's a different scenario than it was last year. Trading a high-level player that's under contract just because the future might demand it, that's never really on my mind."

The Bengals' options are standard: They can extend the wideout on a long-term contract (something that reportedly hasn't been close in the past). Franchise tag Higgins for roughly $22 million, let him play out the season and reassess again in 2025. Tag and trade Higgins to a WR-need club willing to give him that big contract. Or simply let him walk in free agency and expect no compensation (with a load of cap space, it's likely the Bengals would sign enough free agents to negate any compensatory pick from losing Tee).

"We'll see what happens this year," Tobin said. "I want Tee Higgins back. Everyone on our team would like to have Tee Higgins back. Again, there's one pie and how big of a slice that takes and what else we can't do because of it, we'll have to determine and we'll see."

The other big ball in the air is Ja'Marr Chase, who is also eligible for a contract extension this offseason. Whether it's now or next year, Cincy will have to pay Chase, and the top of the receiver market is $30-plus million per season.

The question for Tobin is whether investing $50 million per campaign in the WR corps is prudent business or if he'll allow Higgins to walk, hoping to find his replacement in the draft.

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