BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Stefon Diggs landing in Buffalo was a direct result of the new coronavirus pandemic potentially disrupting the NFL’s offseason practice schedule.
Bills general manager Brandon Beane altered his approach in filling the Bills’ most pressing need at receiver.
By acquiring Diggs in a trade with Minnesota last month, Beane opted to add an established player who could immediately step into the lineup, rather than risk waiting for a rookie to grow into the role with limited practice time.
“You know the draft is stacked with receivers, but I think it became ever-prescient with what’s going on around us that we don’t know what kind of offseason we’ll have,” Beane said during a video conference call with Buffalo-area-reporters Thursday.
“I just felt like it was going to be really hard, unless I traded up really high to find a guy that I know could walk in on Day 1, let’s just say August, before we get back to things,” he said. “I just felt a proven commodity was worth this.”
Though the NFL is going ahead with holding its draft this month, players have been asked to self-isolate and are barred from working out at team facilities. The league has also postponed the start of teams’ offseason workout programs, which were scheduled to begin as early as Monday.
Beane paid a big price by trading away four draft picks, including Buffalo’s first-round selection (22nd overall) this year, to acquire Diggs. Beane justified his decision to add Diggs by saying he wasn’t certain who would still be available when it came time for Buffalo to make its first-round pick in the receivers-loaded draft.
And question marks remained even when Beane factored in trading up in the draft order. He calculated the Bills could have moved up to no higher than the 18th pick, based on the team’s limited trade assets.
Entering his sixth NFL season, Diggs is an established downfield threat who has topped 1,000 yards receiving in each of his past two years. He has the potential of providing Buffalo’s Josh Allen-led offense a primary deep threat it had previously been missing, and joins a group of established receivers rounded out by John Brown and Cole Beasley.
In his first comments since completing the trade on March 16, Beane acknowledged he began changing his thought process at a time when the severity of the pandemic was first being realized.
With all North American sporting events either canceled or postponed indefinitely, Beane took into account how much time NFL teams might have to prepare for the upcoming season with what could be a limited practice schedule.
And Diggs wasn’t the only option, Beane said. Without going into specifics, he noted having had discussions with veteran free-agent receivers who, Beane said, “would be able to come in and understand our verbiage quicker than a rookie.”
Beane’s interest in Diggs dates to last season, when he first broached the possibility of a trade with the Vikings. After Minnesota rejected Buffalo’s offers, Beane said the two sides resumed discussions this offseason.
Beane said the deal came together in a matter of hours, and after the Vikings informed the Bills they had several other offers on the table.
With four years and approximately $47.5 million remaining on his current contract, Diggs arrives in Buffalo with questions about his character after he complained about his role in Minnesota. Last year, Diggs was fined more than $200,000 for skipping two days of team activities following a loss to Chicago.
Beane doesn’t expect that to be an issue, and defended Diggs by calling him a “super-competitive guy, and brings an edge to the position.”
“I’m sure there’s things that he probably wishes he would maybe have handled better in retrospect, but it’s a clean slate here,” Beane said. “We believe in our culture. We believe the facts that we know about him. We believe he’ll be a fit here.”