If the New England Patriots have Tee Higgins as their top wideout option this offseason, chances are they’re not alone.

Higgins has as impressive a resume as Michael Pittman Jr. and Calvin Ridley, despite the fact he was the Cincinnati Bengals’ second option the last three seasons. Higgins also is five years younger than Mike Evans, the longtime Tampa Bay Buccaneers wideout with a decade of Hall of Fame-worthy production.

Those four players make up the star-caliber receiver class in 2024. And the Patriots should try to add a star-caliber wideout this offseason, whether that be through the draft, via trade or in free agency.

One difference with Higgins, though, is the Bengals can place the franchise tag on the 2020 second-rounder. The Indianapolis Colts can do the same with Pittman Jr., also a second-round pick in 2020. The Athletic’s Paul Dehner Jr. reported the Bengals plan to franchise tag Higgins.

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“… There is zero indication from the team that Higgins will sniff free agency this year,” Dehner wrote.

With that said, any offseason pursuit of Higgins likely will be more difficult and expensive. Both the 29-year-old Ridley and 30-year-old Evans will be available when free agency begins next month. But to add Higgins, an interested team could have to pull off a tag-and-trade agreement with Cincinnati. It likely would require a steep trade package before a lucrative long-term contract.

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Nevertheless, the Patriots should try for the 6-foot-4, 220-pound pass-catcher.

Spotrac projects Higgins’ market value this offseason will be in the neighborhood of a four-year, $74 million deal. Should that framework be the case, an $18.5 million AAV is more than reasonable. Higgins still would be the 14th-highest-paid receiver, and with Justin Jefferson, CeeDee Lamb, Jaylen Waddle, Ja’Marr Chase and others nearing their own extensions, Higgins would soon slide further down that list.

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The Patriots have gaping holes on offense. Some will argue their most pressing need is quarterback. Others will argue it’s offensive tackle, which is needed to keep the quarterback upright. Nobody will argue receiver isn’t a need, however. It should be very high on the priority list.

Higgins, even if the Patriots have to part ways with their No. 34 overall pick, would fill that need. He’s a proven talent with two 1,000-yard seasons as his team’s No. 2. So while it might be more expensive, it’s less risky than drafting a receiver at that spot. We’ve seen how missing on those high picks has hindered the organization in recent years. A world in which the Patriots draft their franchise quarterback No. 3 overall and acquire Higgins for an early second-rounder, well, there are worse positions to be in.

With all of this said, there remains the chance the Bengals use their franchise tag on Higgins, don’t trade him, and hope their 1-2 combination of Higgins and Chase leads their pursuit of a Super Bowl. Joe Burrow’s contract extension goes into effect after the 2024 campaign, so it will be difficult to pay both receivers at that point. But for now? It’s still possible.

That doesn’t mean the Patriots shouldn’t try to land Higgins, though.

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Featured image via Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer via USA TODAY NETWORK Images