April 12, 2024

Stefon Diggs trade: Are the Bills’ struggling days over? Why Josh Allen proves this isn’t the case

The Buffalo Bills had an interesting offseason for a team that has won more than eleven games and been to the divisional round of the playoffs four years in a row (at least). The Stefon Diggs trade was the icing on the cake for an organization that parted ways with Leonard Floyd, Jordan Poyer, Micah Hyde, Tre’Davious White, Mitch Morse, Gabe Davis and Tim Settle.

With Diggs gone, the Bills will have to replace a player who was crucial to Allen developing into a top five quarterback in the NFL. Diggs has the top four single-season receptions in team history, with more than 100 catches in each of his four seasons in Buffalo. He is also the only player in Bills history to reach 1,400 receiving yards in a season – and Diggs has accomplished that feat twice.

Diggs also has the most catches (445), the second-most receiving yards (5,372), and is tied for the second-most receiving touchdowns (37) in the AFC since joining Buffalo in 2020. Only Tyreek Hill has more receiving yards and receiving yards. touchdowns than Diggs, showing his impact in Buffalo.

The Bills and Chiefs were the only two teams to win more than 11 games and reach the divisional round of the playoffs in each of the past four seasons. The Chiefs have made three Super Bowl appearances in that span (winning two), while the Bills have reached the AFC Championship Game just once (and that was in the 2020 season).

Despite deep playoff runs, things haven’t gone on the right track, failing to capture the championship that has eluded the franchise since winning the AFL title in 1965. Buffalo still hasn’t made it to the Super Bowl since losing the Super Bowl for the fourth consecutive time in history. Season 1993.

With all the offseason changes in Buffalo, is this championship window closed? Not with Josh Allen still on the roster.

Top 5 QB

player's head shot

Allen may have had Diggs during his four seasons as one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, but he has carried the Bills offense on his shoulders time and time again. He has the most combined passing and rushing touchdowns in the NFL over the past four seasons with 173, trailing only Patrick Mahomes in passing touchdowns (137) and Jalen Hurts in rushing touchdowns (36).

Allen is second in passing yards with 17,540, behind only Mahomes. He ranks third among quarterbacks in touchdown percentage (5.8%, minimum 1,500 attempts) and ninth in passer rating (96.9). Allen is also coming off a season in which he led the NFL in total yards (4,830) and total touchdowns (44). His 20,010 combined passing and rushing yards trail only Mahomes (20,448) for the most in the NFL over the past four years.

Allen is the player with the most total touchdowns after his first six seasons in NFL history (221) and also has the most yards per game in the playoffs (330.2). Allen also ranks seventh among qualified quarterbacks in playoff passer rating (100.0), throwing 21 touchdowns and four interceptions in his postseason career. His five rushing touchdowns in the playoffs are also tied for sixth-most in NFL history.

The Bills are 63-30, with Allen their starting quarterback, and Allen has finished in the top five of MVP voting in three of the past four seasons. As long as Allen is on the field, the Bills have a chance.

Buffalo won by limiting Diggs

The Bills’ offense focused too much on Diggs when Brian Daboll and Ken Dorsey were the offensive coordinators. Once the Bills fired Dorsey and gave the play-calling to Joe Brady, the offense spread out more and Diggs didn’t appear as often.

As a result, Diggs’ numbers declined. He had 34 catches for 315 yards and just one touchdown over the last seven regular season games, averaging 9.2 yards per catch. The Bills were 6-1 in that span, with their lone loss coming in overtime against the Eagles.

While Diggs had just 10 catches for 73 yards in the playoffs, matching his numbers at the end of the regular season, Allen was still able to score in the playoffs. He completed 68.2% of his passes with 4 touchdowns and 0 interceptions (101.7 rating) in his two playoff games – this after completing 60.7% of his passes with 10 touchdowns to 7 interceptions (85.5 rating) while rushing for 278 yards and 8 touchdowns with Brady as offensive coordinator.

The Bills won games by limiting Diggs — and Allen was still productive. Even without Diggs and a limited wide receiver group with Curtis Samuel and Khalil Shakir leading the way, they will still get strong play from Allen. Keep in mind that Allen still has Dalton Kincaid at tight end and James Cook at running back, two strong pass catchers at their respective positions.

The future regarding the salary cap

The Bills’ 2024 salary cap situation looks bleak, but Buffalo appears to be playing the long game here. The Bills will hold $31.1 million in dead cap space with the Diggs trade, but will save $19 million in cash by trading Diggs now – giving them $19 million in free cap space through 2025 by taking Diggs off the books to get. They are projected to have $4.5 million in available cap space through 2024.

Buffalo isn’t in a great place with the 2025 salary cap, even with the Diggs trade, but the cap is expected to rise again. The Bills have the No. 28 overall pick in 2024 (first round), along with the No. 60 pick (second round). They have a first-round pick and two second-round picks for 2025.

The salary cap outlook for 2024 is bleak, but it will get better for 2025 and significantly better for 2026. Allen will only be 30 years old in the 2026 season and still in the prime of his career.

The Bills will be competitive if Allen is healthy, regardless of their draft choices and salary cap situation. Buffalo has a top-five quarterback, but needs to find the No. 1 wide receiver to replace Diggs.

Luckily, the bills have drafted well and have the draft capital to move up from No. 28 to complete the task. Brandon Aiyuk and Tee Higgins may also be available, two options if the Bills don’t decide to draft a receiver.

The salary cap doesn’t matter if the Bills can replace Diggs. Buffalo appears to be in a position to get a viable alternative while the core piece still lies in Allen.

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