Patriots chances of signing top free agent receiver look bleak

Cincinnati Bengals v New England Patriots
Cincinnati Bengals v New England Patriots / Nick Grace/GettyImages

The primary focus for the Patriots this offseason has been free agency, with so many roster holes needing to be dealt with and plenty of talent available for the team to spend their hefty estimated cap space. New head coach Jerod Mayo already implied they would be willing to dish out the big bucks to do so, and with a long list of quality receivers who will be testing the free-agent market, it's the perfect time to do so.

Over the last two years, most fans hoped the team would make a move to bring in Bengals receiver Tee Higgins, vocalizing their desire to see a trade get done last offseason. Now that he is set to be a free agent next month, he has been the leading name in the conversation of players the Patriots should do whatever it takes to land.

The problem is, it doesn't look like they'll even have that opportunity now.

A new report from The Athletic's Paul Dehner Jr. reveals that Cincinnati's likely plan to franchise tag Higgins to keep him with the team for one more season and give them more time to work out an extension as their previous negotiations fell flat.

This was an expected move for the Bengals, who will be in a bit of a sticky situation over the next few years. They are trying to manage paying Joe Burrow, Ja'Marr Chase, and others while having enough cap space to spend on the rest of the team. Franchise tagging Higgins doesn't solve that problem, but it puts a band-aid on it for now.

It's an unfortunate development for the Patriots, who would greatly benefit from the talent of a guy like Higgins on their offense. He's a proven talent who has played phenomenally well behind Chase and would immediately be the WR1 in Foxboro.

His tenure with the Bengals continuing removes him from the list of candidates they can sign this offseason and could potentially force them to rely on drafting the next top receiver if they cannot sign guys like Mike Evans, Michael Pittman Jr., or Calvin Ridley.

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