The NFL currently has two dramatically different schools of thought when it comes to receivers. Some will pay big money (and trade real assets) for a proven player. Others will resort to the draft. Others who have a proven player will happily trade the player and backfill with a rookie, like the Titans did in the 2022 draft.
The Bills acquired their top receiver after he sought a trade from the Vikings, but not over money. Two years later, it was time to pay Stefon Diggs. So how and why did the Bills decide to wife a market-level contract to Diggs in lieu of looking to replace him with a promising young receiver? I asked Beane that question during a Monday visit to #PFTPM.
“You got a proven product, a guy who’s been in your building, who’s got a relationship with your quarterback,” Beane said of Diggs. “And ultimately you have to have a cutoff just like you do when you go in to buy a house. You’re going, ‘All right we’d like to buy the house for this, but we’re walking away at this number,’ and you kind of set those parameters before you do a deal. And ultimately I think Stef and his agent did a fair job of pointing out their points of even where the number two [receiver] market has gone to why the number one [receiver] market should be. Tyreek Hill, Davante Adams had gotten done before ours. I just try to envision, ‘All right we can either sign him to an extension, maybe he plays it out but maybe we have some issues with that down the line, or we can go the route that some teams are choosing trade and redraft [a new receiver] but I just couldn’t imagine where we’re getting, what we were going to get to replace Stef in the sense of what he brings to our offense. He opens it up for Gabe Davis, for Dawson Knox, and some of the other guys that we have here. We’re a different offense without Stef.”
At a time when other teams are releasing the bird in the hand in the hopes of finding a cheaper bird that hopefully will fly as effectively, Beane underscored the value of having a guy who has shown he can get it done at a high level.
“I mean, I haven’t been around very many number one receivers in Carolina,” Beane said of the team with which he worked for years before becoming the Buffalo G.M. “We had Steve Smith, and he was a clear number one. And when we got here, our offense hit another level when we got a true number one guy. To say that I’m definitely going to hit on that in the draft where we’ve been drafting, that seemed like more of a risk I wasn’t willing to take, if we could get Stef done at a number that made sense for him and made sense for us, which fortunately, we did.”
It’s a sensible approach, and it works for the Bills. Other teams are choosing different approaches. That’s what makes the issue so compelling. And that’s why how these receivers perform in the coming years will be so instructive as to which way is the right way, and which way is the wrong way.