Stefon Diggs trade winners and losers: Josh Allen, CJ Stroud, AFC defensive backs and more

In a league that never ceases to make headlines, the NFL news cycle took its final twist on Wednesday when the Buffalo Bills and Houston Texans agreed to a trade.

The Bills sent four-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Stefon Diggs, a 2024 sixth-round pick and a 2025 fifth-round pick to Houston in exchange for a second in 2025, the team confirmed.

The trade threatens to upset the balance of the AFL’s power structure, reshape the offenses of at least two teams and bring all eyes to a receiver who has delivered loud messages on and off the field.

Take Tuesday night, when former NFL quarterback Robert Griffin III argued that Diggs was essential to Buffalo quarterback Josh Allen’s success, and one user responded that he wasn’t.

“Are you sure ?” Diggs returned to Twitter.

Less than 24 hours later, Diggs was committed to Houston. Griffin’s argument, and Diggs’ question about it, will be put to the test.

But as a star receiver moves halfway across the country and conference, who will win and lose the most right now? Let’s break it down.

wINNERS

Stefon Diggs

It’s too early to know for sure how bright and young offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik will hire Diggs and what shape the relationship will take with reigning rookie of the year CJ Stroud. But Diggs’ trajectory in Buffalo last season was troubling. After posting 85.5 yards per game and a drop to 59% of regular-season carries over three years, Diggs carried that pace through the Bills’ first 10 games with 86.8 yards per game and seven total scores.

But after offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey was fired in November, Diggs’ production dropped under Joe Brady, who will hold his position through 2024. Diggs averaged 45 yards per game the rest of the year (43.1 including playoffs). and scored just once in seven regular-season games and zero times in two playoff contests. The Bills won six of their last seven compared to five of their first 10. While the attention he showed undoubtedly helped his teammates, a player with Diggs’ vocal passion isn’t meant to stick with a team whose winning tendencies are at odds with his production.

CJ Stroud

To be clear, Stroud’s ranking as a winner doesn’t mean he’s lucky in a good situation. Like anyone else, the second overall pick of the 2023 NFL Draft has created the favorable situation from which he is now reaping the benefits. His 23 touchdowns to five interceptions last year enabled the Texans to triple their win total from the year. Still, what quarterback wouldn’t be excited to run reads with Diggs, Nico Collins, Tank Dell and Dalton Schultz as options?

The Texans’ strong offensive line will give Stroud time to maximize his receiving corps, and in the best-case scenario, a new team will be the refresher Diggs needs to channel his emotions to power rather the competitive juices of his team. rather than breaking them. NFL quarterbacks often take a step back in their second year, as opponents take an entire offseason to solve the puzzles they struggled to decipher during a player’s rookie year. Adding a piece like Diggs, whose dynamic will support and change the Texans’ existing structure, could help reverse that slide.

AFC East DBs

Sauce Gardner and DJ Reed, you can rest easy tonight in Florham Park, New Jersey, or wherever you are spending this part of the offseason. The same goes for Jalen Ramsey and Kendall Fuller in Miami, as well as Jonathan Jones and Christian Gonzalez in New England.

The AFC East defensive backs might be getting a little puffed up now that Stefon Diggs is out of their division.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)The AFC East defensive backs might be getting a little puffed up now that Stefon Diggs is out of their division.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

The AFC East defensive backs might be getting a little puffed up now that Stefon Diggs is out of their division. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Sure, the Patriots may have reason to complain that a Patriots-bred general manager in Nick Caserio completed a trade for minimal equity and a receiver payday compensated by his starting quarterback… and it wasn’t. Theirs Patriots-bred GM with a rookie quarterback apparently on the way. New England recognized its receiver need after the club pursued Calvin Ridley in free agency to no avail. Diggs likely would have started their offense even sooner than Ridley (Ridley probably has more perennial value) had they made a trade. But Buffalo wasn’t letting Diggs go to a division contender, so overall, the Patriots still come out ahead on the day. Defensive game plans are easier to create when they don’t have to account for Diggs.

The Process™️

This isn’t just the Bills™️ Process or the Texans™️ Process. The Diggs trade actually reflects well on both of their processes, in the eyes of many executives around the league. “For Buffalo it’s an effort not to turn a 3-year project into a 5-year project,” an AFC executive wrote shortly after the trade. “They gave it a run with that core, it’s old and [in] decline, [Bills GM Brandon Beane] prob felt like he had to bring him back to get a new group in with Allen to make a run.” Trading for Diggs served the Bills well in 2020. Trading him away serves them well now, executives from multiple teams believe.

Meanwhile, in Houston, the AFC executive corrected the idea that Caserio’s turnaround in Houston was quick. The improvement was great last year; but Caserio’s first two seasons as general manager produced a combined seven wins, a quarterback debacle courtesy of Deshaun Watson and plenty of question marks. Now? His roster looks to have one of the best quarterbacks in the league, one of the best receiving corps in the league and a deep core of elite talent on both sides of the ball. The ceiling is astronomical; can houston close it?

losers

Josh Allen fantasy managers

I’m not convinced Allen, on balance, is a loser here, but the lack of Diggs as a WR1 suggests his fantasy numbers will drop. That said, I think we’ll have to see how the Bills use his rare skill set, their run game, and the new draft capital that could help replenish the weapons before we can say for sure ourselves Allen took a hit by missing Diggs. Of course, he has one less explosive weapon. But also, if Allen plays fewer hero passes and earns more, as Buffalo showed a trend towards late 2023, they could create a more consistent path to the deep postseason run Allen most seeks — as it was evident in January after the Chiefs cut him. Bills again.

Allen, 36 minutes off the clock, was still staring into space as he contemplated yet another dream lost from his grasp. So if a new recipe that distributes production and responsibility around the Bills can be more consistent and playoff-ready, Allen will be pleased. Allen fantasy managers, however, can be confused. Stay tuned.

Teams with QB megadeals

They are inevitable, but they are also, in many cases, unsustainable. Teams discussing the salary cap, especially in March, draw little sympathy. If you want a high-end (or even second- and third-tier) quarterback after his initial deal, the cost will continue to rise as long as demand for service quarterbacks far exceeds supply.

Which means hitting a starting quarterback is one of the best market inefficiencies a roster builder can exploit, and now Houston is doing just that. Of course, teams like the Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Chargers could benefit from a talent like Diggs. Instead, they’ve each traded away top receivers in recent years to save money. A deal like Houston’s is likely to instill regret in teams that didn’t go all the way during their quarterbacks’ rookie deals, and it doesn’t make it any easier for the Texans to deal with as they move up. in the ranks of AFC contenders.

Bills 2024 salary cap

If you think the Bills just saved money by trading Diggs, think again. This is more akin to the Arizona Cardinals trading DeAndre Hopkins to the Tennessee Titans — a move that was costly in the first year before freeing up Arizona to now get a starting receiver this offseason (looking at you, Marvin Harrison Jr. and Malik Nabers). The Bills are eating up all of Diggs’ remaining signing bonus this season, a $31 million cap hit that is the highest of any receiver contract, for ESPN stats and info. It will also be roughly $3 million more than Diggs would have cost in 2024 if he Were in the contract. But by 2025, Buffalo could follow Arizona’s lead in looking at a cheap, enticing prospect without Diggs’ money tying up the Bills. Finding a younger receiver (Diggs will be 31 in November) with no history of sideline explosions and in the locker room should help the Bills… maybe not as much this year.

Don’t let the dead cap hit of $31 million in 2024 keep you from understanding what Beane just did.

L’Jarius Sneed’s take on the playoffs

The cornerback joined the Tennessee Titans last month after a trade from the Kansas City Chiefs. He knew he would now have to deal with a split with Trevor Lawrence, CJ Stroud and Anthony Richardson instead of Justin Herbert and whoever the Denver Broncos and Las Vegas Raiders were subjecting their franchise rollercoaster to recently. While Sneed has proven capable of handling receivers of Diggs’ caliber and beyond, facing the Texans twice a year just got trickier as he and his teammates balance Diggs, Dell and Collins.

The Titans’ road to the division title is also clouded with the trade of Diggs, hurting the Titans’ chance to contend in the next two years. There’s no doubt that Sneed knew his chance to win a Super Bowl sank when he left the Chiefs; and no doubt the competitor in it will embrace this challenge. But the perspective definitely just changed.

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