The Minnesota Vikings and Buffalo Bills will face each other on Sunday, marking the first time Stefon Diggs has faced his former team since forcing a trade after the 2019 season.
Diggs spent five seasons with the team after being selected in the fifth round (146th overall) during the 2015 draft. In 70 games while with the purple and gold, Diggs totaled 365 receptions for 4,623 yards and 30 touchdowns. In 2018, he had 102 receptions and nine touchdowns (his best in Minnesota).
His most significant moment with the franchise, though, was during the 2017 Divisional Round against the New Orleans Saints when he scored a game-winning touchdown as time expired — the famous Minneapolis Miracle. That will always be one of the biggest moments in team history and one of the craziest endings in NFL history.
Living in a run-heavy offense, however, frustrated Diggs, and he asked for a trade. Minnesota was able to get a first-round draft pick in the trade.
Looking back at the trade, how did it go?
Well, it has worked out for both teams. Buffalo has won their division in each of the past two seasons and has a legitimate shot at winning the Super Bowl this season. Before Diggs’ arrival, they had not won a playoff game since 1995. Diggs has undoubtedly played a huge role in Buffalo’s improved play since.
He has also been targeted more there than he was in Minnesota. His 127 receptions and 1,535 yards were both league-highs in 2020, and his 7 touchdown receptions this season lead the league.
Minnesota drafted Justin Jefferson with the 22nd overall pick from Buffalo. That draft was loaded with talented wide receivers, but it was, of course, still unknown if Jefferson would pan out. You never know what you are getting in the draft.
Jefferson has been one of the best wide receivers in the league since he was a rookie, and while Minnesota has not made the playoffs with him, they still benefited from this trade as well.
In 41 career games, Jefferson has totaled 255 yards and 20 touchdowns. He is also five years younger than Diggs and has been much cheaper. Yes, he will get big bucks soon (whether it is his current team or not), but he is still on his rookie deal.
Here are both his and Diggs’ salaries since 2020:
In 2024, Jefferson will be in the final year of his rookie deal and will be due $4,175,437. Diggs is not scheduled to be a free agent until after the 2027 season and is owed over $20 million in each season after this year.
Jefferson making less money than Diggs has made it easier to sign free agents such as Dalvin Tomlinson, Harrison Phillips, and Za’Darius Smith. It has also made it easier to re-sign their key players, such as Danielle Hunter, Dalvin Cook, Eric Kendricks, and Harrison Smith.
It is never easy for a team to lose a star player, but it is just how the business works sometimes. Fortunately for the Vikings, though, they found a replacement that is younger and much cheaper. He also can go down as a better player than Diggs. At the very least, it will be very close between the two. If he can stay in Minnesota for years to come, the trade will keep looking better.
Maybe someday Jefferson will also help them win their first Super Bowl. Maybe Diggs will do the same with his current team this season or in another season.
What if the Philadelphia Eagles drafted Jefferson and the Vikings took Jalen Reagor instead (Reagor, of course, is a Viking now anyways)? The trade certainly would not have looked very good. They had to move on either way. Diggs did not want to stay, so they had to move on and get something in return for him. While a very good player, Diggs became a diva in his final season with the team. Keeping him in Minnesota for even one more season could have made things very ugly.
As a team, Minnesota is finally winning games with Jefferson which has made things even better. Once again, this trade was a win-win for both teams. Many Vikings fans may still like Diggs, but having Jefferson has certainly made it easier to move on from their other loved receiver.
Some fans are kind of sour with how Diggs handled things during his final season with the team, but his play during his five seasons and that huge touchdown catch will never be forgotten.
Seeing both players in the same game will be a real treat.