How could he possibly be better than he was in 2020?
The Buffalo Bills have built an arsenal around quarterback Josh Allen. They’ve improved the offensive line. They’ve replaced aging runners with fresh legs. They’ve also replaced nearly the entire receiving corps, with only Isaiah McKenzie, whom they acquired in November of 2018, remaining on the roster from Allen’s rookie season among his stable of pass catchers.
Signing Cole Beasley was mocked by some out-of-town pundits as a waste, given that Allen was “so terribly inaccurate” and Beasley was an underneath zone buster. The Bills signed John Brown and those same pundits wondered why Brown would leave the Baltimore Ravens and Lamar Jackson for an “inferior” passer in Allen. Over the course of the last three years, however, those moves have proven successful.
The cherry on top of Buffalo’s Sunday sundae, however, was acquired in a trade with the Minnesota Vikings. Those same pundits hated that move, too, expecting the “diva” receiver to explode at Allen like he did with Kirk Cousins. And explode he did—just not quite how they envisioned it.
In our final installment of “90 players in 90 days” for the 2021 offseason, we profile the most important piece of Buffalo’s offense outside of QB1.
Name: Stefon Diggs
Height/Weight: 6’ 191 lbs
Age: 27 (28 on 11/29/2021)
Experience/Draft: 7; selected by Minnesota in the fifth round (No. 146 overall) of the 2015 NFL Draft
Acquired: Traded to Bills on 3/20/2020
Financial situation (per Spotrac): Diggs is still operating under the terms of the five-year, $72 million extension he signed with Minnesota in July 2018. This offseason, Diggs agreed to have $11.7 million of his base salary converted into a bonus, which he’ll receive in installments over the next three years. That cleared $7.8 million in cap space for general manager Brandon Beane to work with this offseason. Diggs carries a $6,396,111 cap hit this year, and Buffalo is responsible for a dead-cap charge of $13,818,333 if they trade or release him.
2020 Recap: Diggs immediately paid dividends for Buffalo, rewriting the team’s record books for wide receivers on the way to becoming the first Bills wideout to be named First-Team All-Pro. Diggs led the NFL in targets (166), receptions (127), and receiving yards (1,535). All of those totals were team franchise records, as well. He also hauled in eight touchdowns—good for first place on the squad. In the playoffs, Diggs saw 31 more targets, catching 20 passes for 311 yards and two touchdowns. Only Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill, both of the Kansas City Chiefs, had more catches and receiving yards in the postseason than Diggs, and only those two plus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Chris Godwin saw more targets.
Positional outlook: Diggs sits atop the receiver depth chart, with Emmanuel Sanders, Cole Beasley, Gabriel Davis, and Isaiah McKenzie all but locks to join him. Jake Kumerow, Isaiah Hodgins, Lance Lenoir, Tanner Gentry, Marquez Stevenson, Duke Williams, and Brandon Powell round out the group.
2021 Offseason: Diggs has participated in all offseason work to date. However, he has not practiced since August 7 due to a knee injury. The team thinks he’ll be able to ramp up his activity next week. He has not played in a preseason game thus far.
2021 Season outlook: Stefon Diggs and Josh Allen took to each other beautifully last year, and the partnership immediately became one of the best QB-WR tandems in the league. There are a lot of mouths to feed in this offense, but it’s clear that Diggs is priority number one. For a smaller-bodied wideout, Diggs is especially adept at fighting in traffic for jump balls, but he’s so fast that he rarely finds himself in a position to need to do so. This mystery knee injury is concerning only in the sense that Diggs has been unable to practice, but based on the impression the team is giving, I’d guess that it’s something minor enough where he’d play in the regular season. Given that Diggs fought through a torn oblique at the end of last season, it’s clear that he’s tough enough to gut out injury when necessary. When the Bills kick off against the Pittsburgh Steelers on September 12, I expect that Diggs will be lined up and ready to slice through Pittsburgh’s defense once again.