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Trade Targets

Hypothetical Trade Spots: Stefon Diggs

by Ian Hartitz
Updated On: February 26, 2020, 12:20 pm ET

The Vikings and stud WR Stefon Diggs have had a bit of a rocky relationship over the past five months. Sure, the on-field product has been nothing short of spectacular (12 yards per target!), and Diggs has done nothing wrong in the legal sense of the word.

Still, things have just been weird. On October 6, 2019 the Vikings fined Diggs more than $200,000 for unexcused absences from practices and meetings. Things quieted down for a while after that, but now Diggs has made a number of tweets and choices on social media that seem to indicate that all is not well:

  • January 17: "Be careful what you wish for ..."
  • February 6: "Some things are better left unsaid. ..."
  • February 6: "I don't forget or forgive ..."
  • February 7: "I hate people that do you wrong then try to play the victim ..."
  • February 9: "People don't appreciate things until they're gone ..."
  • February 9: "Business is business ..."
  • February 11: "Tired of the cap ... lol"
  • February 12: "Never let being liked get in the way of being respected ..."
  • February 12: "Everything that was done in the dark is about to come to light ..."
  • February 15: "Things getting interesting ..."
  • February 18: Diggs deletes all Vikings content from his Instagram

Further complicating matters is the reality that Diggs has the 'Evil Patrick' meme as his Twitter avatar.

Again: WEIRD.

Vikings GM Rick Spielman said at the combine, "there is no reason to anticipate that Diggs is not going to be a Minnesota Viking" in 2020. The Vikings have signed Diggs through the 2023 season and would incur many millions of dead money if they were to release their stud WR anytime soon. A trade is also unlikely considering that'd leave behind $14.8 million in dead cap space.

It's not looking like the Vikings will be parting ways with their home-grown star anytime soon. After all, the only WRs in the last decade to gain more yards on deep balls than 2019 Diggs have been 2018 Tyreek Hill, 2015 Allen Robinson, 2012 Calvin Johnson and 2011 Jordy Nelson (per PFF).

Diggs is one of the league's premiere deep-ball threats and capable of emerging as a truly prolific high-end No. 1 WR with more targets. Just 26 years old and having played in 70 of a potential 80 games during his five-year career, there's no reason to believe that Diggs will be taking a step back anytime soon.

This reality makes it unlikely that the Vikings trade their elite WR unless the price is incredibly right. This team is extremely complete at the moment and should do everything in their power to keep the skill level high around Kirk Cousins during the final year of his contract.

But hey: it's February. Let's pretend that the Vikings do indeed make Diggs available for a reasonable asking price. Who would emerge as his top potential suitors? Let's find out.

Teams that already have multiple high-end pass-game targets (13)

Adding Diggs to any of the following teams would largely be unnecessary due to their existing talent at WR, TE and RB.

Teams with very little cap space (4)

Adding Diggs to any of the following teams is unlikely due to their minimal salary cap room.

  • Pittsburgh Steelers: This offense is also already fine at the WR position: JuJu Smith-Schuster is 23 years old, plus both Diontae Johnson and James Washington flashed at times in 2019 with a brutal situation at QB.
  • New Orleans Saints: Michael Thomas is pretty much the only receiver that has been #paid during the Sean Payton and Drew Brees era. The Saints join the Vikings, Steelers and Falcons as the league's only four teams with fewer than $10 million in available 2020 cap space.
  • San Francisco 49ers: This is the league's fifth-most cap strapped team. Coach Kyle Shanahan already proved capable of engineering a high-end offense with all-world TE George Kittle, rising stud WR Deebo Samuel, and the team's plethora of other capable skill-position talents.
  • Chicago Bears: Perhaps former GM of the year Ryan Pace can shed some of the team's not-so-good deals (see: Burton, Trey), but otherwise it's looking like Mitchell Trubisky's top-two targets in 2020 will be Allen Robinson and Anthony Miller.

Teams with QBs that Diggs might be like "nah I'm good" (4)

Diggs might not have much of a say in a potential trade destination, but I'd bet he might try to get out of the following deals if push comes to shove.

  • Buffalo Bills: This is a Josh Allen-friendly column, but sheesh. Only the Colts and Panthers offered up a lower percentage of catchable deep balls in 2019 (PFF). The presence of John Brown and Cole Beasley makes it unlikely we see the Bills try to pull *another* splash trade in the offseason for a diva WR.
  • Indianapolis Colts: Jacoby Brissett had a ton of injuries to deal with at TE and WR last season, but also had the luxury of playing behind one of the league's best offensive lines. I would love to see Chad Kelly get a chance at some point. Either way: not exactly a situation stud WRs are probably lining up to go into.
  • Miami Dolphins: Ryan Fitzpatrick has proven capable of earning the likes of DeSean Jackson, Brandon Marshall and DeVante Parker big-money deals, and Josh Rosen wasn't as bad as you think last season. But again: don't count on the Dolphins being a front-runner for Diggs in our present fairy tale trade reality.
  • Las Vegas Raiders: Derek Carr is a good QB when everything is perfect, which has resulted in the Raiders regularly ranking among the league's highest spenders on the offensive line. And yet: Carr has ranked 30th, 33rd, 16th, 29th, 21st and 26th in deep-ball rate over the last six seasons. Diggs surely doesn't want to find out what Amari Cooper went through.

Teams that are the Packers (1)

Adding Diggs to a divisional rival ain't gonna happen.

  • Green Bay Packers: It's fun to dream about Diggs entering this offense, but c'mon meow. There's no way the Vikings are trading a player of his caliber to a division rival. In the meantime, feel free to dream about Robby Anderson (but contain your expectations).

Teams that just really don't make sense (4)

There's a need at WR for the following four teams, but it still seems unlikely that we see Diggs rep their colors anytime soon.

  • Dallas Cowboys: Why would Jerry Jones choose to part ways with Amari Cooper for Diggs? This almost assuredly won't happen, although it certainly would be a solid consolation prize to pair with Michael Gallup if Cooper's asking price winds up being astronomical. 
  • Washington Redskins: This organization has been a dumpster fire for years and offers little appeal other than a potentially promising young QB, although even this latter point could be mute if we don't see some immediate progression in 2020.
  • New York Jets: See previous explanation.
  • Tennessee Titans: Ryan Tannehill was the league's premiere QB in most important metrics during the 2019 regular season. And yet, the offense could barely feed their own No. 1 WR A.J. Brown enough targets. This would be fun: 2019 Diggs and Brown join 2014 DeSean Jackson, 2011 Jordy Nelson and 2010 Mike Wallace as the only players with at least 12 years per target in a single season since 1992 (min. 75 targets), but this run-heavy offense reportedly wants to continue investing in the Derrick Henry business.

The five most hypothetically-realistic landing spots for Diggs (5)

These five teams have the most-realistic mix of need, salary cap space and general allure to be called realistic suitors for Diggs.

New England Patriots

    2019 marked Tom Brady's worst statistical season since 2013 and before then 2006. In all three instances the Patriots were fairly depleted of talent in the passing game:

    • 2006: Deion Branch was gone; something named Reche Caldwell led the team in receiving.
    • 2013: Just seven games from Rob Gronkowski, very young Julian Edelman, and Danny Amendola's first year with the Patriots.
    • 2019: No viable replacement for Gronk, incredibly-banged up Edelman down the stretch, and injury-riddled inconsistency from first-round rookie N'Keal Harry.

    It's not like Brady was suddenly rendered mute on deep balls: he was one of 14 QBs to post a QB Rating over 100 on passes thrown at least 20 yards downfield (PFF). Yes, he led the league in throwaways (40) and posted the third-highest rate of bad throws (Pro Football Reference) ... but he also had to deal with the seventh-highest drop rate.

    It's fair to wonder how much Brady has left in the tank, but the prospect of playing under Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels might prove to be enough for Diggs to welcome the opportunity to serve as the No. 1 target for the GOAT.

    Baltimore Ravens

      Lamar Jackson has been historically incredible *throwing* the football. Only Patrick Mahomes has averaged more adjusted yards per pass attempt (differs from YPA by weighting TDs and INTs) than Jackson among every QB to start at least 16 games in the history of the league.

      Of course, Jackson is far from the second-best passer in league history. This wild efficiency is undoubtedly thanks to the impact his rushing ability has on a defense.

      Still, that's not something that Jackson should be criticized for. It's another example of the benefit of not having a statue at the QB position.

      Don't you think playing for one of the league's more well-run organizations that just so happens to boast the MVP and No. 1 scoring offense would excite Diggs? I do. Mark Andrews and Hollywood Brown are a great start, but adding a true No. 1 WR like Diggs could elevate this entire offense to an even higher level.

      Denver Broncos

        I want Drew Lock to be good. I really do. The man won four-of-five starts as a rookie, with the only L coming in a snow-filled road trip to Arrowhead.

        Yes, wins/losses are not a great stat for QB discussions, and Lock posted a mediocre average of 6.6 adjusted yards per attempt.

        Also yes, the man raps to Jeezy on the sideline. The offseason is for positive thoughts.

        Courtland Sutton is already established as a true stud WR, and TE Noah Fant showed a lot of ability that makes a year two breakout a real possibility. Adding Diggs as premium replacement for Emmanuel Sanders would be an amazing scenario for this passing game as a whole.

        Philadelphia Eagles

          Carson Wentz was the league's leading MVP candidate during the 2017 when he boasted a pair of competent deep-ball threats in Torrey Smith and rookie Mack Hollins. Since then the offense's vertical passing game has been rendered mute by a mix of injuries and generally disappointing performances alike:

          • 2016: 64.2 QB Rating on deep balls (29th), 10.2 YPA on deep balls
          • 2017: 100.2 QB Rating (10th), 14 YPA
          • 2018: 70.8 QB Rating (tied for 25th), 13.5 YPA
          • 2019: 79.4 QB Rating (22nd), 10.7 YPA

          DeSean Jackson ripped off an 8-154-2 line in his only full game with Wentz in 2019, but adding a true No. 1 WR capable of winning at all areas of the field could help lead to a return to form for the Eagles' franchise QB.

          I doubt Philly forgets Diggs shredding their secondary to the tune of a 7-167-3 line back in October.

          Arizona Cardinals

            Christian Kirk is a perfectly fine WR to have in your offense. The same can even be said for old-man Larry Fitzgerald. Still: Arizona was in dire need of more playmakers last season, finally showing signs of life after the arrival of none other than Kenyan Drake.

            Kyler Murray struggled early on with taking too many sacks and ultimately finished with a league-high 48. And yet, the 2019 No. 1 overall pick showed off plenty of tantalizing dual-threat ability that enabled some great team-wide performances throughout the season. An improvement as a passer in year two is expected, and this offense was already one of the league's premiere rushing attacks in 2019.

            Adding more talent around Murray while he remains on a rookie contract is essential. Fun guy Gronk said previously that he'd only consider playing football again for the Patriots or Cardinals (because he liked coach Kliff Kingsbury).

            Do you think Diggs enjoyed the Vikings' switch to a run-heavy offense in 2019? Maybe he wonders what living in warm weather is like?

            The offseason is a glorious time to be alive.

            Ian Hartitz

            All things NFL. Great day to be great. You can follow Ian on Twitter @Ihartitz.