Commentary

Shocker: Bills Trade Diggs

Featured Photo Credit: © Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports via Imagn.com, LLC.

As I See It.

After covering the Bills for some 40 years before retiring from WGRZ-TV 11 years ago, I’ve learned that nothing should ever surprise me. But. Sometimes the circumstances we’re not privy to, much like seeing just the tip of the iceberg, lead to surprises. There’s an awful lot going on we don’t know about.

Such is the case with the now widely reported Bills trade of star WR Stefon Diggs to the Houston Texans for a pair of cowboy boots and a Stetson hat.

Kidding, but that’s not far off the truth. For the record, the Bills absorb a $31m cap hit, meaning another $3.2m more than if they had kept Diggs. The Bills don’t even benefit until 2025, when they receive a 2nd round pick (from Min), and the Bills also give up a 6th rd pick this year and 5th rd pick in 2025.

On paper, the Texans just robbed the bank and got away with it.

My first reactions coming, but right here I’d like to thank sponsors Atwal Eye Care – magnificent job on both my eyes with cataract surgery several months ago.

And BluTusk Tech of Orchard Park. Want a “new” computer without paying a new computer price? Need your old MacBook given new life as I did? They’re the ones!

As I write this, I’m giving first impressions without watching what the rest of the world is saying about this trade, but my assumption is that most outside observers think the Bills got fleeced by the Texans. They may be right, if the now 30 year old Diggs can get back to the form that made he and Josh Allen such a force for about four years. 

This is great for Diggs, who already signed a four year, $96M contract extension in April of 2022. He was 28 and his production warranted the deal IMO. At that time, that financial commitment from the Bills meant – or so I thought – that Diggs would be virtually unmovable. With $70M of that contract guaranteed, Diggs has no money worries and will now work with talented young QB C.J. Stroud, as the Texans load up for a Super Bowl run.

But Diggs wore out his welcome, just as he did in Minnesota. Did he “tank” on purpose? Cynics will think that, but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. Still, he now has a young star QB on an ascending team that plays in warm weather. How good is THAT?

There’s no question the Bills made a spectacular move by obtaining Diggs, as the Bills and GM Brandon Beane took Diggs quirky attitude as part of the deal, and it worked out well for both the Bills and Diggs – until it didn’t.

Diggs and Allen had a public bromance for a couple seasons, where only the :13 debacle in KC and a drop or missed FG or two kept the Bills from reaching their goal. But the rub on Diggs that he’s a no-show at playoff time was enhanced by his non-factor game against the Chiefs in a 27-24 Divisional Playoff loss at home. Diggs had three catches for 21 yards, and dropped a tough but catchable long pass from Allen that could have won the game.

But the cracks began appearing before last season, and I’ve mentioned here before that we had a warning a year ago when HC Sean McDermott admitted he was “deeply concerned” about Diggs no-show for a mandatory Bills workout. The spin machine calmed that down quickly, and it was McDermott who looked like the bad guy.

He wasn’t, and from then on, Allen kept his true feelings about Diggs hidden from public view, while Diggs arm waving antics at Allen were seen by the entire world. Allen was always – ALWAYS – supportive of Diggs, as Diggs continued to perpetuate media speculation that he wanted out of Buffalo. He did it skillfully, by giving vague answers to pointed questions, then questioning the questioners about why they kept asking him the same questions. It’s because YOU love the attention, Stefon. That’s why.

By all appearances, Diggs and Allen had worked out any perceptual differences before last season, but that clearly isn’t the case. I noticed right away that during the entire off season that Diggs kept hinting at wanting out, while denying that’s what he was hinting. Allen didn’t bother to contact Diggs as far as any of us know, to see how he was doing. Nope, Josh figured Diggs didn’t need, or want, his advice.

Poor Stefon. Nobody appreciates me, and none of this is my fault.

Don’t get me wrong: I thoroughly enjoyed watching Diggs play, and also loved his interaction with young fans during training camp and before and after games. Yes, he wears his heart on his sleeve, and works harder than anybody. He wears some crazy outfits, but that’s part of the fun. But there was an edge nobody wanted to talk about with Diggs. A young broadcaster on the Bills Network was caught on an open mic saying “who wants to ask Diggs” for an interview? It drew laughter from the media, but when it got back to Diggs, the young reporter almost lost her job. She had to apologize for saying something every other media member was thinking.

Photo by © Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports via Imagn.com, LLC.

This is a gutsy move by Beane and the Bills, and owner Terry Pegula, who will be eating some of Diggs contract while Diggs is no longer here. Yes, Diggs performance fell off dramatically the 2nd half of last season, and he is now 30. Is he declining? Maybe, but it also was becoming noticeable that Diggs was disappearing in the biggest games. His playoff performances have been average at best, but it’s Josh Allen taking the heat. 

Clearly, the Diggs “problem” was becoming harder to work around as we head into a new season and new stadium a couple more years down the road. While McDermott and Beane worked hard at creating a culture of respect and winning, Diggs was not walking the walk in private. While most NFL wide receivers tend to be “me” guys more than any other position, there’s a fine line here.

Just as positive vibes from team leaders become the heart and soul of a team, just one or two negative attitudes can erode and burst the bubble. Because of this move, it’s now apparent that Diggs was considered a negative in the locker room. It’s called addition by subtraction. The Chiefs did it with Tyreek Hill, and although a lot of that was about money, his locker room attitude was anything but positive. To his credit, Patrick Mahomes didn’t flinch, and won a couple Super Bowls without Hill.

Can Allen rise above the loss of Diggs? A lot of things will enter into the answer. The NFL draft, which is loaded with quality wide receivers, now becomes a focal point again. We thought the recent signings of Curtis Samuel (LOVE this guy) and Mack Hollins meant the Bills didn’t necessarily have to go WR with pick 28 in the 1st round, but the loss of Diggs means the Bills now really need a true #1 target for Allen. It could be Samuel, but he’s a perfect #2 of 3 guy to me. Khalil Shakir has proven he deserves a shot at the 2 or 3 slot position, or wherever he can be a more frequent target.

The Bills have a window everybody keeps talking about, and the discussion will continue as we see what becomes the Bills final roster by the start of the 2024 season. You can already hear the shouts of joy from New England, Miami and the Jets. All three look right now to be improved, and losing Diggs can’t be considered an on field plus.

Are the Bills “rebuilding” on the fly here, with Allen still just 28 with a few good years left?

Always the optimist, I see the Bills as a legit SB contender with some youth and speed added to the D, a quality OL and of course – Josh Allen. James Cook is ready to break out, as is TE Dalton Kincaid and Shakir.

But the realist in me says the Bills will be hard pressed to win a 5th straight AFC East title. They’ve got a rugged schedule ahead, and several key members of the D are gone.

Still, the Bills will be good, and maybe even great. Nobody knows for sure, with many more personnel changes coming.

And above all else, a positive locker room with several quality leaders who are pulling in the same direction.

Beane/McDermott are opening themselves up to huge criticism if the Bills falter while Diggs bounces back with big numbers in Houston, but the very fact they made this move tells me it HAD to happen.

Again, thanks to sponsors Atwal Eye Care and BluTusk Tech.

Editor’s babble: Great insight from Gramps here. The move HAD to be made and the Bills got what they could for him. We’re thankful for Ed Kilgore’s contributions to our blog. You can also find Ed on Xwitter @Kilgore2Ed.

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