The Vikings’ decision to trade Stefon Diggs — the receiver whose desire to leave Minnesota was “not a mystery,” according to quarterback Kirk Cousins — was just business, General Manager Rick Spielman said Tuesday.
Speaking publicly for the first time since the Vikings traded Diggs to the Bills on March 16, Spielman insisted his comments at the NFL scouting combine, when he said “there’s no reason to anticipate Stefon Diggs is not going to be a Minnesota Viking,” were true at the time. The Vikings, he said, “had no intention of trading Diggs at the combine,” and only decided to do so when the offer they received from the Bills was too good to pass up.
The Vikings netted three picks, including the 22nd overall choice in this year’s draft, in the deal that sent Diggs to Buffalo months after he posted a career-high 1,130 yards and days after Spielman maintained the Vikings wanted him on their roster. The deal came hours after Cousins agreed to a new three-year contract with the team and Diggs tweeted, “It’s time for a new beginning” in an apparent response.
Cousins said last week the Vikings made a smart decision to give Diggs what he wanted and get appropriate value for the receiver, whose dissatisfaction with the team’s offense and his role in it had been reported since he skipped two days of meetings and practices following a Week 4 loss to Chicago. At the combine, Spielman cast reports of Diggs’ disenchantment as media speculation; the general manager would not comment Tuesday when asked about Cousins saying the issue was well-known.
“I’m going to leave all those internal discussions in-house,” he said.
“He was a great player for us, he was great in the community,” Spielman said. “But then there was an opportunity, a business opportunity that came up, that, as this evolved, we felt was good for Stefon and good for us, and we decided to go ahead and make the trade.
‘‘But we’ll always appreciate what Stefon has done for us in Minnesota.”
Though the Vikings signed Tajae Sharpe to a one-year deal in free agency, they could turn to a draft that’s rich in receiver depth to help replace Diggs and fortify their position group behind Adam Thielen.
In the Vikings’ internal draft meetings, Spielman said, their coaches cited “significant types of” receivers who could emerge from the fourth or fifth round of the draft, much as Diggs did in leading the team with 720 receiving yards after the Vikings selected him 146th overall out of Maryland in 2015.
Since Spielman became Vikings GM in 2012, the team has only selected two receivers before the fourth round: It traded up to select Cordarrelle Patterson 29th overall in 2013 after dealing Percy Harvin to Seattle, and picked Laquon Treadwell 23rd overall in 2016.
While Patterson turned into an All-Pro kick returner, neither he nor Treadwell received a long-term deal beyond their rookie contracts with the team. This time around, though, the depth at receiver in this draft might enable Spielman to improve his receiver group without spending a high pick.
“I would say there’s all kinds of flavor — there’s speed guys, speed guys with return ability, bigger guys that are excellent route runners,” Spielman said. “I think you’ll see there’s a lot of teams that kind of go toward what their offensive scheme is, and what fits them.
“I know a lot of the discussions we’ve had on these receivers is, ‘How are they going to fit in our offense?’ We have a pretty good sense of the type of receiver that helps the quarterback rise and what’s important on those traits. There are a lot of good options, and like I said, I don’t think only in the first round … you can get a lot of good receivers throughout this entire draft.”