New England Patriots fans desperately wanted their team to acquire Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs at the trade deadline last season. They’ll now get a second chance to opine after the talented offensive playmaker.
It didn’t make sense for the Patriots to trade for Diggs last season, because they couldn’t. He cost too much against the salary cap. Instead, they sent a second-round pick to the Atlanta Falcons for wide receiver Mohamed Sanu, who was more affordable.
Now that the 2019 season is over, the Patriots can afford Diggs, who would carry an $11.5 million cap hit in 2020. New England has roughly $29 million in cap space. It would be a tight squeeze, however, if it also wants to re-sign quarterback Tom Brady and field an otherwise competitive roster.
The Patriots could offset Diggs’ high cap hit by including Sanu in a trade for Diggs, however. Sanu’s cap hit is $6.5 million, which is a decently good deal for a receiver of his caliber. But if the Patriots acquire Diggs, Sanu would become fairly expendable with Julian Edelman, N’Keal Harry, Jakobi Meyers, Gunner Olszewski and more receiver additions also on the roster.
Including Sanu in the deal also could lessen the draft capital needed to acquire Diggs.
Diggs is signed through the 2023 season. The Patriots would be acquiring him on a four-year, $47.5 million contract. That would make him the 16th-most expensive receiver on an average-per-year basis. He’d be slightly more expensive than Oakland Raiders receiver Tyrell Williams. That’s good value for a guy who is costing the Vikings $14 million per year.
The five-year pro has put together two straight 1,000-yard seasons. He has 165 catches for 2,151 yards with 15 touchdowns in 30 games over the last two seasons, and that’s while playing for an offense that is hesitant to throw the ball. Head coach Mike Zimmer is old school and cut bait with his old offensive coordinator John DeFilippo because he wanted to run more. Kevin Stefanski followed suit for a year-and-a-half before leaving to become head coach of the Cleveland Browns. Now Zimmer’s old buddy Gary Kubiak is the team’s offensive coordinator.
Diggs, 26, would cost nearly twice as much as Sanu, but he also could double Sanu’s production. Sanu will be 31 this August and has 125 catches for 1,358 yards with six touchdowns over the last two seasons. He managed just 26 catches for 207 yards with one touchdown in eight games with the Patriots in 2019.
Diggs would come with some risks. He seems to be slightly moody and a bit of a diva based on his behavior in Minnesota. But New England would play to Diggs’ strengths in more of a pass-heavy offense. New England passed the ball on 57.9 percent of offensive plays last season. The Vikings passed on just 49.7 percent of offensive snaps in 2019.
It seems one surefire way to convince Brady to return is to increase the Patriots’ offensive weaponry. Acquiring Diggs would do just that and potentially could get Brady back at a lower salary, as well.