The NFL’s legal free agency tampering period has never been bound by time and arguably the first day’s biggest bombshell dropped just minutes before the clock struck midnight on Day 1. After countless social media posts and rumors led us in the direction that Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs wanted a trade, Minnesota pulled the trigger on a bountiful offer from the Buffalo Bills. It’s very rare that an NFL trade ends up as a victory for both sides, but this deal has a strong chance of evolving into a win for the Vikings and Bills for a variety of reasons.
The complete terms of the deal: The Bills acquire Diggs and the Vikings’ 2020 seventh-round pick; the Vikings acquire the Bills’ 2020 first-round pick (No. 22 overall), Bills’ 2020 fifth-round pick, Bills’ 2020 sixth-round pick, and its 2021 fourth-round pick.
Without further ado, we’ll break down the grades for each side in this deal.
You can’t compare this with what the Arizona Cardinals had to give up for Deandre Hopkins because Buffalo wasn’t trading with Texans coach and de facto general manager Bill O’Brien. Instead, it’s fair to use the Odell Beckham Jr. trade from last offseason as a reference point. The Browns gave up a first-round pick, a third-round pick and a former 2017 first-round pick (Jabrill Peppers) who was still on his rookie contract. The Bills gave up several Day 3 picks in addition to their late first-round pick for a proven wide receiver who was almost definitely underutilized in Minnesota’s run-heavy offense playing alongside wide receiver Adam Thielen.
Filled with multiple shocking blockbuster trades that involved prominent wide receivers and record-setting contracts, the first day of the NFL’s free agency legal tampering period did not disappoint. Will Brinson and the Pick Six Podcast Superfriends are here to break it all down; listen below and be sure to subscribe for daily NFL goodness.
Just ask Yahoo! Sports NFL analyst Matt Harmon, who has charted the success rate of the NFL’s top wide receivers (independent of their cornerback play). Harmon tabs Diggs as the best route runner in the NFL, and if you take the time to dive into his All-22 game tape, you will likely come to the same conclusion. Diggs gets open, early and often, and it’s not his fault that the targets didn’t seem to come his way very often in 2019.
Diggs provides the Bills with a true No. 1 target for ascending third-year quarterback Josh Allen. Although Diggs’ raw production may not scream that of a true No. 1, he has the ability to win in every way that a No. 1 can — over the top on vertical routes, underneath when it comes to yards after the catch on crossers (which have become the go-to route concept for just about every passing game), and in the intermediate game with his elite separation skills. However, where Diggs can truly shine most in his new home is in the vertical passing game. Think of Diggs as a better version of what the Bills got in Year One from wide receiver John Brown. The two receivers have a very similar skill set. In his first year in Buffalo, Brown racked up 72 receptions for 1,060 yards (14.7 yards per catch) with six touchdowns. Diggs’ arrival should also take defensive coverage away from Brown, who could be poised for an even bigger sophomore campaign in Buffalo on a per-play basis.
Simply put, the Bills have added a ridiculous amount of speed and separation skills to their wide receiver corps over the last two offseasons with the additions of Diggs and Brown. Allen has the arm talent to get the ball to both of these players over the top, and if defenses decide to use split-safety coverage in the deep half to avoid giving up big plays to Diggs or Brown, well then Buffalo will kill them with Devin Singletary in the run game. Do you see the dilemma now that opposing defenses are set to face in 2020 and beyond?
Some will bury the Vikings for trading Diggs, but considering they are likely to bring back a very similar offense to the one they ran in 2019 (even with a new coordinator), it never made sense to allocate a large chunk of their (very limited) salary cap space to the wide receiver position. And let’s face it, as Diggs has made it abundantly clear on social media, he didn’t want to return for another season where he saw fewer than triple-digit targets in the passing game. For reference, in 2019, there were 33 wide receivers who saw more targets than Diggs. Brown was one of them. In his first season with the Bills, Brown saw the 14th-most targets. There are certainly not 33 NFL wide receivers who deserve more targets than Diggs and the Bills will now give him a chance to jump into the top 15 or top 10 in targets (as we can assume he will supplant Brown as the team’s most-targeted receiver right away).
The Vikings entered the offseason with limited salary cap space, and according to OverTheCap.com, there are only six NFL teams that currently have less cap space than Minnesota. And by the way, the Vikings have already restructured and added years to Kirk Cousins‘ contract (in part to lower his cap hit now) and they still need to set aside a sizable chunk of cap space to sign their 2020 NFL Draft picks. They needed to shed cap space in some way and acquiring the No. 22 overall pick in the 2020 draft in addition to three more picks (but they sent back one seventh-rounder) is a great way to do it.
The deal is even better for the Vikings when you consider how deep and talented this 2020 wide receiver draft class projects to be. Earlier this offseason, Chris Trapasso broke down theinto tiers. The Vikings can use their newly-acquired first-rounder from the Bills, their own first-round pick, or any Day 2 pick to acquire a wide receiver who in most draft classes would be viewed as a top-half-of-the-first-round lock. In this draft class, with so much talent at the position, there will be value for those teams who draft a wide receiver in every round during the first two days of the draft and likely into the early parts of Day 3.
Given Minnesota’s salary cap position heading into the 2020 offseason, the best thing they could’ve done is add more draft capital (because with that comes more players on cheap four-year rookie contracts that barely count anything against the salary cap). This is exactly what they accomplished in this trade. Bravo.