In a league that never stops making waves, the NFL news cycle took its latest turn Wednesday when the Buffalo Bills and Houston Texans agreed to a trade.

The Bills sent Houston four-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Stefon Diggs, a 2024 sixth-round pick and a 2025 fifth-round pick in exchange for a second 2025 pick, the team confirmed.

The trade threatens to tip the balance of the AFC’s power structure, reshaping the offenses of at least two teams and putting all eyes on a receiver who has delivered loud messages on and off the field.

Take Tuesday night, when former NFL quarterback Robert Griffin III argued that Diggs was essential to Buffalo quarterback Josh Allen’s success, and one user responded that he wasn’t.

“Are you sure ?” Diggs tweeted back.

Less than 24 hours later, Diggs was on his way to Houston. Griffin’s argument, and Diggs’ question about it, will be put to the test.

But who stands to gain and lose the most when a star receiver moves halfway across the country and conference? Let’s break it down.

Winners

Stefon Diggs

It’s too early to know for sure how smartly young offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik will hire Diggs and what form the connection with reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year CJ Stroud will take. But Diggs’ trajectory in Buffalo last season was concerning. After posting 85.5 yards per game and a touchdown in 59% of regular season games over three years, Diggs maintained that pace through the Bills’ first 10 games with 86.8 yards per game and seven total scores.

But after offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey was fired in November, Diggs’ production declined under Joe Brady, who will retain his post in 2024. Diggs averaged 45 yards per game the rest of the year (43.1 including playoffs) and scored just once in seven regular-season games. season games and zero times in two playoff games. The Bills have won six of their last seven, compared to five of their first 10. While the attention he received undoubtedly helped his teammates, a player with Diggs’ vocal passion isn’t likely to stay on a team whose winning trends are inverse to his production.

C.J. Stroud

To be clear, listing Stroud as the winner doesn’t mean he’s in a good situation. Like everyone else, the second overall pick of the 2023 NFL Draft created the favorable situation from which he is now reaping the benefits. His 23 touchdowns and five interceptions last year allowed the Texans to triple their year-over-year winning total. Still, what quarterback wouldn’t be happy sitting through lectures with Diggs, Nico Collins, Tank Dell and Dalton Schultz as options?

The Texans’ solid offensive line will give Stroud time to maximize his receiving corps, and at best, an emerging team will be the renewal Diggs needs to channel his emotions to fuel his team’s competitive juices. then break them. NFL quarterbacks often take a step back in their second year, as opponents are given an entire offseason to solve the puzzles they struggled to decipher during a player’s rookie year. Adding a piece like Diggs, whose dynamics will both support and change the Texans’ existing structure, could help circumvent that shift.

AFC East DBs

Sauce Gardner and DJ Reed, you can rest tonight in Florham Park, New Jersey, or wherever you’re spending this part of the offseason. The same goes for Jalen Ramsey and Kendall Fuller in Miami, as well as Jonathan Jones and Christian Gonzalez in New England.

The AFC East defensive backs may be breathing a little now that Stefon Diggs is out of their division. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Sure, the Patriots may have reason to regret that a Patriots-bred general manager in Nick Caserio completed a trade for minimal draft capital and a receiver payday compensated by his starting quarterback… and that wasn’t the case. their Patriots-bred GM with a starting quarterback seemingly on the way. New England recognized the need for its receiver when the club pursued Calvin Ridley to no avail. Diggs probably would have started their offense even earlier than Ridley (Ridley may have more multi-year value) if they had pulled off a trade. But Buffalo didn’t let Diggs go to a division contender, so overall the Patriots still come out ahead on the day. Defensive game plans are easier to make when they don’t have to take Diggs into account.

The Process™️

This isn’t just the Bills’ Process™️ or the Texans’ Process™️. The Diggs trade actually reflects well on both of their processes, in the eyes of several executives around the league. “For Buffalo, it’s an attempt to turn a three-year project into a five-year project,” an AFC executive texted shortly after the transaction. “They tried with that core, it’s old and (in) disrepair, (Bills GM Brandon Beane) probably felt like he had to turn it around to get a new group in with Allen to make a run to make.” Trading for Diggs has served the Bills well in 2020. Trading him away is good for them now, executives from multiple teams believe.

In Houston, meanwhile, the AFC director corrected the notion that Caserio’s turnaround in Houston was rapid. The improvement was steep last year; but Caserio’s first two seasons as general manager produced seven combined wins, a quarterback debacle thanks to Deshaun Watson and plenty of question marks. Now? His roster looks to have one of the best quarterbacks in the league, one of the best receiving corps in the league and a deep core of elite talent on both sides of the ball. The ceiling is astronomical; Could Houston be close?

Losers

Fantasy Managers by Josh Allen

On balance, I’m not convinced Allen is a loser here, but not having Diggs suggests WR1 his fantasy numbers are about to drop. That said, I think we’ll have to see how the Bills use his rare skill set, their run game, and their new draft capital that could help replenish weapons before we can say with certainty that Allen himself took a hit at the hands of Diggs to lose. Sure, he has one less explosive weapon. But even if Allen plays less hero ball-passing and wins more, as Buffalo showed a penchant for late in 2023, they can create a more sustainable path to the deep postseason route Allen most covets — as became clear in January after the Chiefs are Bills yet again.

Allen was still staring into space 36 minutes after the clock expired, contemplating another dream that had slipped from his grasp. So if a new recipe that spreads production and responsibility around the Bills can be more sustainable and more ready for the playoffs, Allen will be pleased. However, Allen fantasy managers may pout. Stay tuned.

Teams with QB mega deals

They are inevitable, but in many cases also unsustainable. Teams ranting about salary cap restrictions, especially in March, may draw sympathy from few. If you want a top (or even second- and third-line) quarterback after his rookie deal, costs will continue to rise as long as the demand for serviceable quarterbacks far exceeds the supply.

That means targeting a rookie quarterback is one of the best market inefficiencies a roster builder can exploit, and now Houston is doing just that. Certainly, teams like the Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Chargers could benefit from a talent like Diggs. Instead, they’ve all traded away top receivers in recent years to save money. A deal like Houston’s is likely to sow regret for teams that didn’t give it their all during their quarterback’s rookie deals, and won’t make it any easier to deal with the Texans as they move up the AFC standings .

The Bills salary cap for 2024

If you think the Bills just saved money by trading Diggs, think again. This is more like the Arizona Cardinals trading DeAndre Hopkins to the Tennessee Titans – a move that was costly in year one before freeing up Arizona to now likely get a top rookie receiver this offseason (looking at you, Marvin Harrison Jr. and Malik Nabers). The Bills will eat up all of Diggs’ remaining signing bonus this season, a $31 million dead cap hit, the highest of any receiver contract, per season. ESPN stats and information. It will also be about $3 million more than it would have cost Diggs in 2024 if he goods on contract. But come 2025, Buffalo could follow in Arizona’s footsteps and look for a cheap and tempting prospect without Diggs’ money tying up the bills. Finding a younger receiver (Diggs turns 31 in November) without the history of sidelines and locker room outbursts should help the Bills…maybe not so much this year.

Don’t let the $31 million dead cap in 2024 keep you from recognizing what Beane just did.

L’Jarius Sneed’s playoff prospects

The cornerback joined the Tennessee Titans last month after a trade from the Kansas City Chiefs. He knew he would now have to deal with a split with Trevor Lawrence, CJ Stroud and Anthony Richardson instead of Justin Herbert and whoever had subjected the Denver Broncos and Las Vegas Raiders to their franchise rollercoasters of late. While Sneed has proven himself capable of dealing with receivers of Diggs’ caliber and beyond, facing the Texans twice a year only became more difficult as he and his teammates balanced Diggs, Dell and Collins.

The path to a Titans division title has also been clouded by the Diggs trade, which hurts the Titans’ chances of competing in the years to come. No doubt Sneed knew his odds of winning a Super Bowl dropped when he left the Chiefs; and no doubt the competitor in him will embrace this challenge. But undoubtedly the outlook has simply changed.

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