Vikings

The Stefon Diggs Trade Looks Like a Win-Win for the Vikings and Bills

Photo credit: Rich Barnes (USA TODAY Sports)

In the NFL, most trades have a winner and a loser. While one team usually reaps the benefits of a franchise-changing move, the other wonders what the hell they were doing. In some ways, trades are like a winner-take-all deathmatch where there ABSOLUTELY MUST BE A WINNER!!!

Because of this, everyone has analyzed the deal that sent Stefon Diggs to the Buffalo Bills. With the Bills off to a 4-0 start, the team’s Twitter account saw an opening to troll Minnesota Vikings fans, who shot back in a traditional passive-aggressive manner. But after four games it appears that both teams may have won the deal.

Buffalo needed a weapon for Josh Allen. Regardless of what you think of Allen’s performance in 2019, he didn’t have much to work with. Their leading receivers were John Brown and Cole Beasley, who had solid seasons but aren’t as good as Diggs. The Bills also had issues finding a third option, Beasley’s 778 receiving yards were nearly 400 more than tight end Dawson Knox.

With a schedule that would get tougher with a second-place finish in the AFC East, the Bills had to find a No. 1 receiver for Allen to continue to contend. Trying to find one in the draft would be too risky, so the Bills made the godfather offer to the Vikings for Diggs.

In the first four games, Diggs has played like a No. 1 receiver. His 403 receiving yards lead the NFL, and his presence has helped open things up for the rest of the passing game.

This includes Allen, who has taken a massive leap forward in the first quarter of the season. While he has played well in most facets of the game, his biggest improvement has been on deep throws. Allen ranked 29th according to Pro Football Focus in passer rating (64.2) on attempts over 20 yards last season, but he has doubled that number (125.0) to jump all the way to seventh this season. This coincides with adding Diggs, who was first in deep receptions and yardage in 2019.

As a team with the intention of contending with Kansas City and Baltimore, this is a move that has paid immediate dividends. But the same can be said for the Vikings despite their 1-3 record.

Looking at the offseason in hindsight, the Vikings should have gone all-in on a rebuild. While some moves such as franchise-tagging Anthony Harris and signing Kirk Cousins to an extension signaled they wanted to win now, the decision to trade Diggs indicated otherwise.

Fortunately, the Vikings may have gotten the best of both worlds when they selected Justin Jefferson. Acquired with the pick that they received in the Diggs trade, Jefferson appears to be on his way to becoming one of the top receivers in the NFL. Through the first four games, Jefferson has 348 receiving yards, ranking eighth in the league. Not only is that total more impressive considering he played behind Bisi Johnson for two weeks, but also puts him in elite company.

According to The Athletic’s Arif Hasan, Jefferson is one of 18 rookies since 1990 to post over 300 yards receiving in his first four games. In addition to being in a group that includes Diggs, Anquan Boldin, Andre Johnson, Julio Jones, Amari Cooper and A.J. Green, his total is third-most in that span behind Boldin (464 yards in 2003) and Diggs (419 in 2015).

That production is something that the Vikings likely weren’t counting on Jefferson to replicate in 2020. In fact, Jefferson is on pace to flirt with a 1,400-yard season, which would blow away Diggs’ 1,130 yards in 2019. All of this makes Jefferson a younger, cheaper version of Diggs. For a rebuilding team that is currently $9 million over the salary cap in 2021, it’s a huge win.

This isn’t accounting for the other picks acquired in the trade. While one of the selections was flipped to add additional capital in next year’s draft, the Vikings also added Kenny Willekes, who was impressive in training camp before a season-ending injury.

Four weeks in, it appears that both teams got what they wanted in the trade. The Bills got their No. 1 target to contend right away, and the Vikings got a suitable replacement for Diggs plus draft picks. While fans want to destroy a trading partner, this is what teams shoot for in most deals. In the end, the Vikings have what they need to rebuild, and Allen has a star receiver to throw to.

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Photo credit: Rich Barnes (USA TODAY Sports)

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