Stefon Diggs did it all last season, leading the NFL in catches and receiving yards to help the Buffalo Bills to the AFC championship game. Now, he’s doing even more, and it could result in the biggest catch involving the receiver since his ridiculous 61-yard scoring play against the New Orleans Saints in the playoffs following the 2017 season.
Stefon Diggs and the Buffalo Bills have renegotiated
Acquiring Stefon Diggs in a trade with the Minnesota Vikings before the 2020 NFL draft gave Josh Allen the piece he needed to become the league’s most improved quarterback. Diggs made 127 catches for 1,535 yards and eight touchdowns to lead the way in the Bills’ suddenly dangerous air attack.
The Bills used a bundle of draft picks to land Diggs, but they picked up an accomplished wideout locked into a long-term contract. Now, the terms of that deal have changed, and the implications are positive for Allen and the Bills.
According to ESPN’s Field Yates, Diggs has agreed to convert $11.7 million of his base salary for the upcoming season into a $12.7 million signing bonus instead. That pushes some of Diggs’ cap hit into the future, when the new NFL television contracts start to kick in, thereby boosting team salary caps.
In the short term, the Bills pick up $7.8 million in additional cap space for the current offseason, bringing them up to about $11 million, according to Spotrac. That’s a nice chunk of change, and we think we know how they’ll use it.
The Bills have been moving money around
Even before renegotiating with Diggs, Bills general manager Brandon Beane endured a busy offseason of reworking deals. The pandemic put a dent in salary caps for the 2021 season, so center Mitch Morse, defensive lineman Vernon Butler, and cornerback Tre’Davious White were among the notable names agreeing to adjust their deals.
The Bills almost certainly intend to bypass picking up the fifth-year option on Allen’s rookie contract and move directly to a contract extension, the same way the Kansas City Chiefs dealt with Patrick Mahomes. Consequently, some observers have assumed that the money the Bills have been setting aside this offseason has been earmarked for their star quarterback.
While that may be part of the thinking, the savings they’ve accumulated amounts to tip money relative to what they need to complete the new deal with Allen.
A new theory emerged the instant that the news about Diggs’ contract made headlines: The Bills are making a play for Julio Jones, the 10-year veteran receiver who no longer fits under the Atlanta Falcons’ salary cap.
However, Jones’ contract wouldn’t fit much better on the payroll in Buffalo than it does in Atlanta. On top of that, the Bills already have a clear No. 1 receiver in Diggs, backed up by Cole Beasley (82 catches in 2020), Gabriel Davis (35), and Isaiah McKenzie (30).
This feels like a move for a tight end
The one element of the passing game that’s been missing from the Bills offense in recent seasons is the reliable tight end who can convert third downs. Dawson Knox has logged two solid seasons since arriving from Mississippi in the 2019 NFL draft, but the Bills need more.
Zach Ertz has been on the outs with the Philadelphia Eagles since he passed up a fresh contract extension before last season. After five seasons as a high-volume target, Ertz missed five games last season. He’s now seen as complementary to Dallas Goedert rather than the clear-cut starter at tight end.
Ertz is 30 years old and makes for a perfect 50-catch tight end that brings a new dimension to Buffalo’s offense. The Eagles would like to get out from under his $8.5 million salary, and Diggs just gave Buffalo the money to make it happen.
Acquiring Ertz feels like the deal the Bills had in mind when they freed up more money.