What’s next for the Buffalo Bills’ roster after trading Stefon Diggs?


After Stefon Diggs spent four years helping the Buffalo Bills to new heights on the offensive side of the ball and helping quarterback Josh Allen reach his full potential as a franchise quarterback, the two sides have split. The Bills agreed to trade Diggs to the Houston Texans, netting a 2025 second-round pick — while also sending out a 2025 fifth-round pick and 2024 sixth-round pick.

It’s a jarring deal for multiple reasons. From a roster standpoint, it leaves the Bills pretty thin at wide receiver, as Diggs has been their rock of a No. 1 wideout over the last four seasons. From a cap perspective, to trade Diggs, it tacks on nearly $4 million more to his cap hit of nearly $28 million. And considering the timing, the move comes well after free agency had concluded, and well after last year’s No. 2 wideout Gabe Davis moved on to Jacksonville on the open market. On top of it all, many are wondering if the Bills and general manager Brandon Beane yielded enough for someone who had such an, at times, extreme on-field impact.

So it all rings the question, why trade Diggs now? And where do the Bills go from here?

The first place to start before going through all the nuances of the situation is how everything unfolded.

The Bills had been going through the offseason with the belief that Diggs would be on the roster and was in their plans for 2024, according to source with knowledge of the situation. Beane spent the offseason publicly giving votes of confidence. In February, Beane said that he expected Diggs to be with the team in 2024. Before that, in January, the GM said the team believes Diggs is a true No. 1 receiver in the NFL.

Those weren’t moments of lip service. They likely weren’t expecting to deal Diggs, given the receiver’s age, his nearly $28 million cap hit and how much cap space they needed to clear before the new league year even began in mid-March. That’s even before his importance to the offense factored in.

But the deal came together rather quickly. According to a source briefed on the matter, the Texans presented the Bills with an offer for Diggs on Tuesday, which set forward a 24-hour period of internal discussions by the Bills about dealing their star receiver. Those discussions even looped in ownership. The Bills agreed to the deal shortly before 11 a.m. ET on Wednesday, when Beane called Diggs to inform him of the trade.

Now, the Bills are left looking to replenish their now much thinner wide receiver room. So what changed about the Bills’ entire situation that helped them feel comfortable enough in moving on from Diggs?

The first school of thought is that this might be one of the last chances the Bills could maximize his value in a trade before having to eat a lot of dead cap without getting much of anything in return. Diggs put together an outstanding first half of the 2023 season, one that had him on pace to set some career records. But the second half of the year yielded inconsistent results and an, at times, maddening lack of involvement. On top of it all, Diggs turned 30 in late November, which, to NFL types, is usually the age at which natural abilities could begin to unravel due to age. And plus, with some Diggs fatigue that was happening over time, it checked several boxes for the Bills.

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From a draft perspective, considering this year’s values, only netting a future second-round pick is the price tag equivalent of getting a third-round pick this year. However, the Bills likely are looking at that Minnesota Vikings second-round pick with the potential to become a pretty good one, and likely was an attractive piece. The Vikings are in a potentially transitional year, either with Sam Darnold or a rookie quarterback playing against what’s looking like a very good NFC North division. If things break correctly and the Vikings take a plunge in the standings, that pick could wind up as an early second-round selection.

The Bills also took advantage of all their cap-clearing preceding this deal, which also helps explain why they felt comfortable with trading Diggs now. Before the trade, the Bills had around $6 or $7 million in cap space — but that was before the $10 million plus boost in cap space they receive for the Tre’Davious White post-June 1 designation. While they still need a slight amount of space for their rookie draft class, it’s nowhere close to the $16-plus million in cap space they would have had on June 1.

They had the flexibility to take on the additional $4 million cap hit now. While it takes away room for some post-draft dealings concerning their 2024 roster and creates a need to replace another starter, it also completely absolved the Bills of Diggs on their 2025 books, while getting what could be an early second-round pick to do it. If the Bills hung on to Diggs for 2024 and either traded him for a likely much lesser pick next year or flat-out released him, they still would have had a dead cap charge of over $22 million on their books. They used taking on more of a dead cap charge right now as leverage for a better pick.

The one commonality throughout this offseason, with all their restructuring, trades, cap casualties and contracts, it’s that they are looking to foster a healthy cap environment in 2025, when they can potentially become bigger players in the free-agent market. The Diggs cap charge is now totally gone. The likely outcome is for them to move on from Von Miller next offseason, too. Those two moves alone will save them nearly $36 million on the 2025 salary cap. They’re already projected to be under the 2025 salary cap before any additional moves, and that’s with Allen’s massive $43.2 million cap hit next year.

There is no doubt that the most significant deterrent to this deal, and likely why it wasn’t just an instant yes from the Bills, is that it makes their offense markedly worse for 2024. Their actions have screamed that this season was a bit of a mini reset, to get a bit younger and cheaper and avoid the massive cap deficit they faced this offseason in the future, all while still keeping most of their core starters together. But without question, the draft pick and ample breathing room in 2025 come at a dear cost of moving out their best receiver for 2024 by a large margin.

It leaves the room with Curtis Samuel, Khalil Shakir and Mack Hollins as their presumed top three. Samuel and Shakir are both options to become the new starting Z-receiver, with the other likely being the starting slot receiver. Those two players also will likely do a bit of both of those spots. Hollins and the contract he signed is an insurance policy at X-receiver should things not go their way during the draft. The Bills are clearly far from complete as far as their receiver depth chart is concerned.

Even before the Diggs trade, wide receiver was a screaming need for their roster. It’s gone from a screaming need to a 10,000-pound polka-dotted elephant waving hello in the middle of their depth chart. The Bills are going to draft a receiver at some point, likely early. The strength of this receiver class likely plays a role in the timing of the trade, too, because now Beane can really dig in on a move up the board — especially after losing out on the third-round compensatory pick they spent all season thinking they’d get.

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The Bills and Beane have been plenty aggressive with draft day trades before. But now, armed with another second-round pick in next year’s draft that can replenish a future pick moved, nothing should be ruled out regarding a massive move up the board. If the Bills can get their hands on one of Marvin Harrison Jr., Malik Nabers or Rome Odunze, or to a lesser degree, Brian Thomas Jr., it satisfies both the immediate need of a starter and a potential long-term No. 1 to pair with Allen for the long term. That would be the ultimate move that signals they are still quite serious about winning in 2024.

Regardless of all the factors, Diggs will forever be known as one of the most prolific receivers in franchise history, and one that helped unearth what could be the best quarterback the Bills have ever had. He has long had the reputation of being an incredibly smart, thoughtful and motivated player who works extremely hard at his craft, despite some of the drama that follows him. By moving Diggs, the Bills attempted to keep it all moving forward in a year where they could afford it. While their ceiling for 2024 is in question, the Bills are looking at this as a short-term loss for the long-term betterment of their entire situation and an offer they just couldn’t say no to, considering all the circumstances.

(Photo: Billie Weiss / Getty Images)





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