The Stefon Diggs Trade Has Worked Out Perfectly For Both the Vikings and Bills

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When the Vikings take on the Bills on Sunday, they’ll be going against Stefon Diggs for the first time since they traded him back in March 2020.

As this weekend’s big game in Buffalo approaches, there will be plenty of reflection on the Diggs trade and the star receiver’s time in Minnesota. The conclusion, regarding the deal, is the same as it has been for a couple years now: it was the rare trade that works out perfectly for everyone involved.

Diggs spent his first five seasons with the Vikings, going from fifth-round pick to rookie starter to being on the receiving end of one of the most iconic plays in franchise history, the Minneapolis Miracle in January 2018. Aided by the arrival of Kirk Cousins that offseason, Diggs became a 1,000-yard receiver in the ’18 and ’19 seasons.

But he wasn’t fully satisfied with his situation in Minnesota in 2019. Diggs posted all kinds of cryptic tweets that year — something he still does to this day! — and escalated things during the season. After a Week 4 loss to the Bears, he didn’t show up to the facility for several days, resulting in $200,000 in fines. Later that week, he appeared at a press conference where he jokingly faked a cough in reference to the “illness” that he said kept him out of practice. That’s when he opened up about his frustration for the first time, saying things like “I can’t sit up here and act like everything is OK, because it’s obviously not” and “I feel like there’s truth to all rumors.”

Diggs wasn’t moved before the trade deadline and the situation died down for a while. He ended up having three straight games with at least 143 receiving yards in October, amidst a stretch where the Vikings won eight of ten after a 2-2 start.

“I remember Adam (Thielen) got hurt, pulled his hamstring in Detroit, and I remember thinking, ‘I’m so glad Stefon is still here,'” Cousins said on Wednesday. “Because Adam had pulled his hammy, and if (Diggs) was already on another team, we were gonna be in trouble. He really carried us for that stretch of games. We needed him to, and he made play after play. I mean, it was game after game after game. And that’s the way he’s been ever since, really.”

The Vikings went 10-6 that season and made the playoffs, but Diggs was clearly still frustrated. He was seen throwing his helmet on the sidelines during the wild-card round win over the Saints after seeing zero targets in the first half. He caught a touchdown pass in the first half of the Vikings’ divisional game against the 49ers, but they were crushed in the second half. That would be Diggs’ final game in a Vikings uniform.

He continued to post cryptic tweets throughout that offseason, culminating in the most famous one on March 16th, 2020:

Later that night, news broke that the Vikings had traded Diggs to the Bills for a first-round pick and three Day 3 picks.

The trade really did work out perfectly for both parties. Diggs took another step forward in Buffalo, becoming a true superstar while catching passes from Josh Allen in a pass-heavy offense. His numbers improved, he made the Pro Bowl in each of his first two seasons with the Bills, and he’s been a key part of a Super Bowl-contending team that hasn’t quite been able to get over the hump and beat the Chiefs in the playoffs.

The Vikings somehow may have managed to upgrade at the position. They selected LSU’s Justin Jefferson with the first-round pick they got from the Bills, and he has joined Diggs as one of the truly elite receivers in the game. Since 2020, Jefferson leads the NFL with 3,883 receiving yards. Diggs is fourth with 3,617. Through eight games this season, they’re ten yards apart from each other on the receiving leaderboard, occupying the No. 2 and 3 spots behind Tyreek Hill. Both Jefferson and Diggs are on their way to their third consecutive Pro Bowls, and their two teams are a combined 13-3 heading into this Sunday’s matchup.

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“I think it’s one that’s worked out for everybody involved,” Cousins said. “I think Stefon felt that he was wanting a different opportunity, and I think his production in Buffalo would suggest that’s worked out very well for him. When you lose Stefon without the guarantee of replacing that (production), it’s hard, but being able to get Justin sort of made it sting a little less with the way Justin’s played. But make no mistake about it: Stefon is an elite receiver. He’s shown that here. He’s shown that there. He’s doing it again this year and it doesn’t surprise me in the least, having played with him.”

Cousins said Diggs made it clear to him, well before the trade, that his frustrations had nothing to do with him as a quarterback or person. In all likelihood, it had more to do with Mike Zimmer and Diggs’ role in the run-heavy offense the Vikings ran at the time.

“He made it pretty clear from the start that this has nothing to do with you, and we talked about it,” Cousins said. “In pro sports, there’s a level of players needing to protect themselves and look out for themselves and their careers. And I understand that, and everybody in this locker room does. So I understood where he was coming from.”

Cousins has nothing but good things to say about his time playing with Diggs, expressing that he’s happy for the success he’s having with the Bills. 

Other Vikings who played with Diggs feel the same.

“Just being around Diggs since I got in the league was fun,” Dalvin Cook said. “Just making plays with him. You spend a lot of time in the locker room behind the scenes with what people don’t see. That’s my brother. It’s going to be fun playing against him. He’s going to be ready to go like he always he is and we just got to bring ours too. But it’s going to be a fun matchup. 

“When the trade got made, everybody was crazy,” Cook added. “Then we got Justin Jefferson and we were good.”

There won’t be any ill will when the Vikings take on the Bills on Sunday — maybe a little friendly trash talk, that’s all. After the game, old teammates will get to catch up. During the game, it’ll be all about competition and two great teams trying to get a win.

“It’s going to be cool, man,” Eric Kendricks said. “I trained with Diggs in the offseason a little bit, so we get a chance to catch up then. But I know he’s a super-competitor. So I’m ready for that shit.”

Almost three years after Diggs got his wish and was traded to the Bills, it truly is the rare trade that has worked out wonderfully for both sides.

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