The Twins and Timberwolves pulled off big-time trades in the last week. The Wild very well might do the same soon with the trade deadline two weeks away and its position firmly established as fringe playoff team (at best). Minnesota United has had plenty of offseason action, while WNBA free agents can start signing this week.
In the NFL, though, not much will probably happen for at least another month. The new league year starts on March 18, at which time free agents can sign and players can be traded.
So why am I so interested in the future of Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs, and why am I hardly the only one in this position?
The short answer is that he’s a talented player with an uncertain path going forward — and uncertainty makes for good conversation, speculation and dissection.
We started going down this path on the Access Vikings podcast on Friday, prompted by a direct reader question: “Do you expect Stefon Diggs to be a Viking Week 1?”
Let’s look at it from both a perspective of what the Vikings might be thinking and what Diggs might be thinking.
If you’re the Vikings, there are strangely a lot of compelling reasons to trade a wide receiver who led the team in receiving last season, was the NFL’s best deep threat for much of the year and made arguably the most memorable single catch in franchise history.
For starters, the Vikings are pressed tight against the salary cap and face some difficult decisions in constructing a roster that is both balanced and competitive. Diggs has a $14.5 million cap hit in 2020, tied for second-most (with Danielle Hunter) behind Kirk Cousins, and trading him for draft picks would free up space.
Second, our Andrew Krammer made an excellent point on the podcast: The Vikings maintained a certain amount of continuity by promoting Gary Kubiak to offensive coordinator, and they figure to move forward with an offense heavily predicated on running the ball and play action. In that system, does it make sense to have two top-flight, high-paid wide receivers like Diggs and Adam Thielen?
And third, if your answer to that question is “no,” doesn’t it make more sense to keep Thielen — the local product who had been very durable before last season and who didn’t get fined $200,000 for unexcused absences presumably linked to his dissatisfaction with the offense in 2019 as Diggs did?
Those reasons were compelling enough for Krammer to say yes, he would trade Diggs and try to maximize the value in return. But fellow Vikings writer Ben Goessling said “I guess I tend to think he’ll be here,” which leads to the other part of what the Vikings might be thinking:
Sure, Diggs can be a handful to deal with — but he’s also an unquestioned talent who makes the Vikings better. As long as you’re reasonably confident Diggs can be satisfied with his role and not be a distraction — he did, after all, set a career-high with 1,130 receiving yards last season — why would you trade one of your best playmakers from a team with Super Bowl aspirations?
The Vikings, too, have proved to be loyal with homegrown players. Diggs, one of Rick Spielman’s best choices as GM with a fifth-round pick in the 2015 draft, is a shining example of that.
So what might Diggs be thinking? The answer is shrouded in mystery or at least contradictions. After being fined in 2019, Diggs famously said, “I can’t sit up here and act like everything is OK. It’s obviously not” and added “there’s truth in every rumor.”
Later he tried to twist that into some outside conspiracy theory. “It was never not good,” he said. “Outside people got things a little shaky, but at this point — I’m a team guy. I’m here and I want to win.”
So which is it? Maybe it depends on how much he’s getting the ball — enough to eclipse 100 yards in five out of eight games, as he did in the middle of last year, or just two catches a game (as he had in both playoff games). Maybe he sees other pass-heavy systems and thinks he could put up even bigger numbers elsewhere.
Any attempt to interpret Diggs’ social media musings — his Twitter feed reads like angst-filled teen poetry — would be difficult at best, but here are some of my favorites from just the last week:
“These days everybody’s an expert …”
“Some things are better left unsaid …”
“I don’t forget or forgive …”
“I hate people that do you wrong then try to play the victim …”
“People don’t appreciate things until they’re gone …”
“Business is business”
I like Diggs personally. As an interview subject, he shows you his personality and engages in a playful way. On the field, his production tends to match his high opinion of his own skills.
But the combination of salary cap, offensive direction and last year’s turmoil seem to make this less than a 50-50 proposition. The smart money is on Diggs not being here at the start of the 2020 season.
Business is business, after all, even if we might not fully appreciate Diggs until he’s gone if that indeed happens.