What’s next for Josh Allen and the Bills after the Stefon Diggs trade?

Buffalo, New York — The dust has begun to settle following the Buffalo Bills’ second major deal involving Stefon Diggs. After dealing Diggs to the Houston Texans, One Bills Drive issued a public statement acknowledging that the 2024 Bills are a work in progress. Although talent has left, this team is still being built to compete.

“You’re trying to win, and sometimes people don’t realize it,” general manager Brandon Beane said last week. “[Trading Diggs] does not indicate that the Bills are giving up or taking a step back. We try to win in all we do, and we will continue to do so.”

Last week’s move capped off an offseason spent transitioning away from established veteran starters and freeing up contract space for future seasons. The draft, with the Bills’ ten picks, is still to come, and late free agent signings are a significant possibility. Trading away big-name players might be interpreted as a sign of rebuilding, and in some respects, the Bills are doing just that by restructuring their roster — but not in the classic sense of tearing down and starting over.

This club will have a new appearance and be younger, but the goal has not changed significantly, thanks in large part to the presence of quarterback Josh Allen on the roster. Trading Diggs leaves the Bills with a number of unknowns, some of which will be resolved before the season begins in September.

What the Stefon Diggs Trade Means for the Futures of the Bills and Texans

The statistics from Diggs’ four-year stint with the Bills speak for themselves. The three-year captain and four-time Pro Bowler (all with Buffalo) amassed 445 receptions and 5,372 receiving yards during his career there. According to Elias Sports, that is the second-most receiving yards and third-most receptions by a player over a four-year period who started the next season with a different team. No player had more receptions in those four years.

Diggs will be remembered as one of the Bills’ best trade acquisitions and crucial to the team’s recent run of success. The records are lengthy. There’s also no doubt the role Diggs played in helping Allen progress in his career. Prior to the Bills trading for Diggs in 2020, Allen had a total QBR of 49.5, completed 56% of his passes and threw 30 touchdowns to 21 interceptions. Since then, Allen’s total QBR is 71.4, he’s completed 66% of his passes and has thrown 137 touchdowns to 57 interceptions.

While Diggs’ targets went down over the course of the 2023 season, but were still high. Diggs, 30, averaged 11 targets per game in his best performances of the year in Weeks 1-6, and that number dropped to an average of 8.6 for the rest of the season.
Only one wide receiver who caught passes last year is still on the roster: Khalil Shakir. Additions have come in the form of Curtis Samuel and Mack Hollins, but more than one contributor needs to be added to this roster. That very well could come in multiple forms from the Bills’ draft picks, and moving around to get more out of the 10 picks is a strongly possibility, especially based on Beane’s history.

Minnesota Vikings Trade Stefon Diggs to Buffalo Bills!

That should pair with an increased role for last year’s first-round pick, Dalton Kincaid, in the two-tight end sets with Dawson Knox under offensive coordinator Joe Brady in his first year in the role full time. Last season, the Bills were 24th in snaps with two-tight end formations (244) but ranked sixth in completion percentage (72.2%) and ninth in completions on those plays (91). Allen did have the fifth-worst QBR last season (65) when targeting tight ends, but it jumped to seventh-best (77) when targeting running backs and wide receivers.

Then there’s the elements off the field. Six of the Bills’ eight captains from last season are not signed to the roster, with Allen and Von Miller the only players remaining.

“It is going to look different, the Cs on the chest next year, and it’s a good opportunity, though,” Beane said. ” It’s an opportunity for some others to step up, and I think coach [Sean McDermott] and the locker room will be watching starting with the offseason program, who’s leading, who’s going to take over in some of these position rooms?”

The cryptic social media posts and viral moments exist, such as when Diggs quickly left the locker room after a playoff loss to the Cincinnati Bengals in 2023, before being brought back in by running back Duke Johnson. It is worth noting an underrated element of Diggs’ role on the Bills was what he did from a leadership perspective, including going out onto the field multiple times during games to encourage the defense and special teams, and in the wide receiver room. He was insistent in getting to safety Damar Hamlin at the hospital after his cardiac arrest, something that was meaningful to Hamlin.

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“I don’t tell him enough, but I look up to Stef,” Shakir said during the season. “The way he handles his business, the way he is with us in the receiver room. We’re watching film and he’s pointing stuff out, making sure that everybody hears it, not just keeping it to himself, spreading his knowledge amongst everyone else.”

There are other reasons for the deal, including improving the cap situation in 2025 and beyond by taking on Diggs’ dead cap this year. Another advantage for the Bills in this trade — as evidenced by their ability to walk away with a 2025 second-round pick — was the timing and value of the deal coming ahead of what is considered a deep wide receiver class.

Who is stepping up on and off the field will be determined in the coming weeks and months, posing a big challenge for Beane and McDermott, who joined the club in 2017 and built a contender around Allen.

“Are we better now? “Probably not,” Beane replied. “It is a work in progress, and we will continue to work on it. I simply hope people understand that I am fiercely competitive and will not back down. And we will work through this and continue to look. And I’m confident in… the men on the roster, as well as the team upstairs who assist me, that we’ll continue to find pieces to add and that we’ll be ready to go when September arrives.”

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