Cincinnati Bengals head coach Zac Taylor and his coaching staff welcomed players back into the building on Monday morning as the team began the first phase of its voluntary offseason program.
Most starters were present in the locker room moments before Taylor’s first team meeting. Some notable starters were not spotted during the time the media was allowed in the locker room, though.
Taylor said it’s not unusual for a few players to not report right away as they finish up their training programs elsewhere.
“We always have a really good turnout from our guys,” Taylor said. “Our season’s been running long here these last couple of years. I’m sure there will be some guys who are still in a little bit of the routine wherever they’re at for another couple weeks. That’s generally pretty normal.”
Wide receivers Tee Higgins, Ja’Marr Chase and Tyler Boyd were not present during the allocated time for the media to be in the locker room. Linebacker Logan Wilson and tackle Jonah Williams were also not there. It’s worth noting the offseason program is voluntary. However, attendance for Higgins, Williams and Wilson is worth monitoring due to their status with the team. Higgins and Wilson are both seeking contract extensions and Williams requested a trade after the team signed left tackle Orlando Brown Jr. in free agency.
The locker room was full of new faces as Irv Smith Jr., Nick Scott and Brown were all in attendance.
Taylor believes the offseason program allows his team to do two things: Refreshing their schemes and building camaraderie with new players.
The latest on Jonah Williams’ future with the Bengals:
As far as where the team stands with Williams and his trade request, Taylor declined to comment. If the Bengals are going to trade Williams, it makes the most sense for it to come before the NFL draft next weekend. The Bengals want compensation for Williams and to be able to get more draft picks this year, the time is ticking.
“I’ll keep all that stuff private, about conversations with my players,” Taylor said.
The Bengals might wait and see how the first round of the draft plays out before deciding if they plan to deal Williams. The team almost certainly will draft a tackle in the early rounds and if they don’t like the way their draft board is falling, they could opt to keep Williams.
“It can depend on the player, so without making it specific, it just depends,” Bengals executive vice president Katie Blackburn said at the NFL league meetings at the end of March. “Some guys, they ask for a trade and you just don’t consider it. There are some guys who might ask for a trade and you consider it, but there might not be the same value you want. Maybe there are trades you actually make. It can depend. Sometimes it’s after the draft because you don’t get something in the draft and then you do the trade. It’s all dependent on the circumstances and at the end of the day you have to weigh the options and try to make a good decision that is going to make the team better.”
Where is Tee Higgins?
As mentioned above, Higgins was not spotted in the locker room moments before their first team meeting. That’s not to say he won’t show up in a few weeks when the team moves into the next phase that includes more on-field work.
It’s not a surprise Higgins didn’t show up due to his pending contract situation with the Bengals. Higgins is entering the final year of his rookie deal in Cincinnati and is eligible for a new contract. The Bengals have not signed quarterback Joe Burrow or Higgins to new contracts yet this offseason. Those two and an extension for Wilson are the biggest priorities for the team this offseason.
Without a deal in place for Burrow, it’s hard to imagine the team being able to focus on the negotiation process for a mega-deal with Higgins. Based off the current wide receiver market, Higgins will likely be seeking a deal that starts at $25 million annually. Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver AJ Brown who fits Higgins’ mold as player most recently signed a four-year deal worth $100 million.
The Bengals want to keep Higgins in Cincinnati, but whether they can remains to be seen.
This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: Tee Higgins, Jonah Williams absent as Bengals begin offseason program