Jets lose out on top WR targets in 2024 offseason

Tee Higgins,  Jets
Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK

The New York Jets need more talent at wide receiver next season. The numbers say so. The fans agree. The media has put pressure on the franchise to make an upgrade. Even the players have campaigned for their front office to reel in a marquee pass-catcher this offseason.

The Jets were linked to Cincinnati Bengals wideout Tee Higgins and Tampa Bay Buccaneers All-Pro talent Mike Evans. Both top-shelf receivers won’t be up for the Jets to snag this winter or beyond when free agency kicks off on March 13.

Jets: Hopeful FA target Tee Higgins gets his wish in return to Bengals

As’s Christian Gonzalez relayed from colleague Ian Rapoport, the Bengals will be placing their franchise tag on Higgins for next season. The light was shed on the details surrounding his long-term future with the team:

“Higgins’ franchise tag number is expected to be around $21.8 million, fully guaranteed,” Rapoport added.

“Once the tag is placed, The Bengals and Higgins will have until mid-July to get a long-term deal done, otherwise Higgins can only play the 2024 season on a one-year contract — either via the franchise tender or by negotiating new terms (as Saquon Barkley and Josh Jacobs did last year).”

Following the conclusion of the 2023 campaign, Higgins openly expressed his desire to return to Cincinnati, to a situation he spoke glowingly of, though he was also open to exploring other teams.

The Bengals will continue to enjoy his elite play as their No. 2 receiver, and if his health permits and he sees more than the 12 games he appeared in this past year, that he’ll return to being a 1,000-yard producer.

Jets: Mike Evans is likely to return to the Buccaneers, spoiling their free agency chances

The Jets can also likely say goodbye to any chances they had in acquiring Evans. The deep-ball threat came off of a stellar 2023 run where he amassed a whopping 1,255 REC yards and an even more astounding 13 receiving touchdowns.

Evans could have slid right into a Jets dynamic offense with four-time NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers returning under center as their featured No. 1 target next to fellow 1,000-yard receiver Garrett Wilson.

However, the Buccaneers are working out his reunion with the team, as CBS Sports’ Bryan DeArdo reported. The 2023 Pro Bowler made history after becoming the first player to post 1,000 or more yards in their first 10 seasons.

As a result, he’ll garner a projected $23.8 million per year in the open market, which will force Tampa Bay’s management to capitulate to his worth, though they are willing:

“While that’s a lot of money to invest in a player who is over 30, Evans’ production last season, along with his value to the Buccaneers’ organization, has apparently convinced the Buccaneers’ brass that it’ll be money well spent,” DeArdo said.

The Jets will still have options though. Michael Pittman Jr. (Indianapolis Colts) is another viable No. 1 target while Odell Beckham Jr. (Baltimore Ravens) can slide in and supplement Wilson on the outside.

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