ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- As teams furiously made deals during the first day of the NFL's legal tampering period Monday, Buffalo Bills general manager Brandon Beane stayed active behind the scenes. Shortly before 11 p.m. ET, he made one of the biggest moves of his career.
Beane agreed to send the Bills' first-round pick, a fifth-round pick and a sixth-round pick in 2020 and their fourth-round pick in 2021 to the Minnesota Vikings for wide receiver Stefon Diggs and a 2020 seventh-round pick. The decision means several things for Buffalo -- notably that its championship window is wide open.
Beane addressed the team's plans at wide receiver during his end-of-season news conference, vowing to improve the position without being big spenders in free agency.
"We're not gonna go in and just throw a bunch of money at receivers or anything like that, but we'll try to find [players]," he said in January. "I don't think we're one player away. I never think you are, and I definitely don't think we're one player away. You lose the first round of the playoffs that doesn't say to me that the Bills are one player away from being exactly where they want to be.
"But that's definitely a position that we're gonna look to see if we can find more talent."
The Bills might not have been "one player away" before trading for Diggs, but they're a lot closer to it now.
Both John Brown and Cole Beasley had career seasons in their first year with the Bills in 2019, but Diggs is a bona fide No. 1 receiver. He has recorded at least 720 receiving yards in each of his five NFL seasons, including 2,151 yards and 15 touchdowns on 165 catches in the past two seasons, and provides playmaking ability to a passing offense that ranked 26th in 2019.
He should fit seamlessly into the two aspects of quarterback Josh Allen's game that the Bills desperately want to continue to develop: the intermediate and vertical passing games. While Allen made strides in the former, he struggled in the latter last season. The second-year quarterback threw 20 or more yards downfield at the fourth-highest rate in the NFL, but he had the third-worst completion percentage on those deep throws, per ESPN Stats & Information.
Diggs, however, had the second-most receptions on throws 20 or more yards downfield last season. While Allen's accuracy on short-to-intermediate throws ranked middle-of-the-pack among qualified quarterbacks, Diggs had the third-best catch percentage above expectation last season. Translated, he makes up for his quarterbacks' inaccuracies.
He will almost assuredly be Allen's favorite target moving forward and the Bills' unquestioned top receiver -- which is a role he shared in Minnesota over the past few seasons with Adam Thielen.
it's time for a new beginning.— DIGGS (@stefondiggs) March 16, 2020
Such antics seem to be the antithesis of the culture the Bills have built over the past three seasons. That being said, the price Beane paid for him seems steep.
Or, is it?
Prior to the trade, the Bills owned two fifth-round picks and three sixth-round picks in the 2020 draft -- which they acquired last offseason by trading two players who were likely to be cut, Wyatt Teller and Russell Bodine. That fact, coupled with the four years remaining on Diggs' contract at below-market value, make this trade a calculated risk from Beane as he shapes a contender.
It's a risk he had to take after three years of culture-building and roster-shaping. With AFC East ruler New England moving forward without quarterback Tom Brady and its other two teams -- the Jets and Dolphins -- rebuilding, Buffalo is poised to take over as the new power.
Beane has often stated his belief in building through the draft, but even in a loaded draft class, there likely isn't a receiver who can immediately make the same impact as Diggs could in 2020. The Bills GM's willingness to part ways with four draft picks proves there is a sense of urgency in 2020 to win and build on the team's second playoff berth in two years last season.
This trade represents the Bills going all-in -- on Diggs, on the 2020 season and on Allen, who no longer has a bare cupboard.
Buffalo's championship window was cracked open Monday afternoon; by night's end, Beane threw it wide open.