Getty Images

The Cincinnati Bengals have changed course in recent years and been more willing than ever to spend money on outside free agents, but they have still shown a strong willingness to retain their own, homegrown draft picks over the long term. This offseason, they have a big free agent decision ahead of them as Tee Higgins, their second-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, is set to hit the market.

If general manager Duke Tobin had his choice, the Bengals would retain Higgins, who is coming off career-low marks in catches (42), yards (646), and touchdowns (5) after being limited to just 12 games due to various injuries. In is previous three seasons, Higgins had averaged 71.7 catches for 1,009 yards and 6.3 touchdowns while operating as the No. 2 option alongside Ja'Marr Chase for most of that time.

"I want Tee Higgins back," Tobin said, per the Bengals' official website. "Everyone on our team would like Tee Higgins back. There's a pie and there are things we can do and can't do because of it. We'll see."

Cincinnati is set to have $59.4 million in cap space this offseason, per Over the Cap, the fourth-most in the NFL. But in addition to Higgins, D.J. Reader, Tyler Boyd, Chidobe Awuzie and Jonah Williams are all set to be free agents this offseason. And Chase himself is eligible for a contract extension that should make him one of the NFL's highest-paid receivers, if not the single highest-paid receiver in the league.

So, there could be a bit of a cap crunch, and it could result in the Bengals not quite having the bandwidth to retain Higgins. If they can't bring either him or Boyd back, they'd need to dramatically reimagine their receiver room around Chase, and find multiple ancillary targets for Joe Burrow in the passing game. 

If Higgins isn't franchise-tagged and reaches unrestricted free agency, he seems likely to command a significant contract as he would likely be the best receiver on the open market, and there are plenty of teams who could use a player that has proven himself to be one of the best No. 2 wideouts in the NFL and has the potential to be a strong No. 1 if given the opportunity.